As part of the “New Pioneers” series, developer Ali Youssefi wrote about ways to make downtown Sacramento a better place to live and work (“Smart urban living can be the future of Sacramento”; Forum, Jan. 24). Last Sunday’s Conversation asked: What civic and cultural amenities would you like to see as downtown Sacramento continues to evolve?
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
A more livable urban core
Transportation is the key to all urban development. To encourage growth in the urban core, the city must build attractive alternatives to driving a car for every errand or commute.
SACOG’s blueprint calls this smart street development, where it’s easier to walk or bike around the neighborhood than to start up a car and hunt for a parking place. Boulder, Colo., other U.S. cities and many in Europe have built bicycle parkways for longer-distance commuting.
Sacramento should implement these state-of-the-art solutions. Sacramento can be the most bike-friendly city in the U.S. We should make it so. Check out the 10 best bike lanes of 2015 here.
Who pays for ‘smart urban living’?
Yes, Ali Youssefi has wonderful plans for urban living, and I can’t fault his vision. But he failed to mention the massive amounts of public funds needed to develop this area for this special 1 percent of our regional population.
Affordable, subsidized apartments at his successful WAL project cost $350,000 to build. Will this grand urban plan be at the expense of taxpayers living in the already neglected suburbs with poor roads and nonexistent light-rail service?
Many suburban homeowners would have to pay at least an additional $250,000 if we sold our homes and bought up to move to the hip urban core. We’d lose our Proposition 13 exemptions and get slammed with property taxes. It’s practical for people nearing retirement to move closer to services and live in walkable communities, but it doesn’t make financial sense for many.
Developer has correct vision
Ali Youssefi’s refreshing vision for Sacramento’s downtown future contemplates a holistic plan incorporating individuals, aesthetics and connectivity.
Other cities have made those investments. Recently, I spent a day in San Antonio pulled by the attractions of the River Walk and the Alamo. What I discovered was a downtown with much architectural integrity and past. Buildings with varied 1910-20s designs were preserved and restored. Looking up at the skyline, I wondered about the evolution of those gems. Sidewalk-level engraved plates with the buildings’ histories showed remodeling accomplished in the 1980s, apparently alongside the creation of the River Walk.
Youssefi’s vision rightfully includes architectural preservation as a key element to Sacramento’s downtown makeover. Let’s follow the Crocker Art Museum model of blending old and new, not repeating the Alhambra Theatre demolition fiasco. I trust a process of identifying, preserving and renovating historic gems that connect our past and future is proceeding here.
Communities need good schools
Ali Youssefi pointed out a number of ways developers can help make Sacramento’s urban core more vibrant and draw in new residents. I would add one more important piece, however. Vibrant communities need families, not just single 20-somethings and active retirees looking to live closer to commercial and cultural amenities.
Parents want great schools, and if they can’t find them in their urban area, they are likely to move to the suburbs and nearby cities. No amount of housing diversification, interconnected city blocks or urban sustainability will draw and hold families without quality schools.
Business leaders like Youssefi can help by advocating for better state and local education policies to improve existing schools, and by designing new ones that will serve as a draw to young families who don’t want to compromise the quality of their children’s education to stay near the growing culture, amenities and sense of community in a city’s urban core.
president and CEO,
Chamber of Commerce
Brian Gause – More condo towers (living options), better-developed waterfront, more shopping options, cleaner streets and a resolution to the horrible homeless situation in this city, speaking as a downtown resident of the last five years.
Keith Sharward – If it is perceived as safe and fun, people will come. If it is not, people won’t. And for families and others accustomed to suburban lifestyles, urban grit can be a real turn-off, leading to a perception of danger. So it needs to be clean, orderly and free of harassment (e.g., panhandlers).
Alexander Gogol – Develop that beautiful waterfront, more multipurpose towers to house stores and condos, investment in light rail, fast connection to the Bay Area.
Thomas Vincent Castillo – More large-scale community gardens, more small-scale venues for arts and entertainment (outdoor ones preferred). More celebrated culinary diversity and more street fairs.
Vanessa Ann – Community gardens, art projects and musical events.