Jack Ohman

What’s the worst vacant lot in Sacramento?

Sacramento has many vacant lots. Too many. This one, at Fourth and L streets is the author’s nominee for a friendly new contest being held by The Sacramento Bee’s opinion page.
Sacramento has many vacant lots. Too many. This one, at Fourth and L streets is the author’s nominee for a friendly new contest being held by The Sacramento Bee’s opinion page. johman@sacbee.com

At the corner of Fourth and L streets is a large vacant lot/hole in the ground.

It has some nice trees and hundreds of what appear to be cement posts like a little graveyard, and is surrounded by an 8-foot-high, green fence. Someone has tastefully put up ads for the Crocker Art Museum, complete with photos of lovely art objects.

Sadly, this in no way mitigates the hole-in-the-ground vacant lottiness of it all.

The corner of Fourth and L is actually an entire city block/vacant lot/hole in the ground in what should be a piece of primo downtown Sacramento real estate, right by our magnificent Tower Bridge.

It has been a vacant hole in the ground for years. Along with the Dresden-like, post-apocalyptic railyard, I have often pondered just why civic leaders would allow a massive crater in what should be Sacramento’s gateway.

When I found out who owned it, I was in shock.

No, it wasn’t some investment group from China, or a ghost ship mortgage holding company. Nor was it a ne’er-do-well slumlord. It’s the state of California, specifically the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

You know, the people who are managing all that money for state worker retirements, which includes other real estate. Maybe even more vacant lots. A CalPERS spokesman said in an email that the pension fund and its property management firm are “getting closer” to figuring out what to do with the hole.

Vacant lots are truly depressing in an otherwise newly vibrant downtown core. With the construction of the new arena and new real estate projects downtown, there’s a new sense of economic optimism, and you see more and more people out and about in Sacramento.

And not just people in $3,000 suits, people who aren’t currently lobbying the Legislature or attempting to run for a seat in it. You know, humans with DNA. Carbon-based life forms. Real people.

And these real people don’t like vacant lots or those who enable them.

So my colleagues and I have a modest yet fun proposition for our readers: Nominate your least favorite vacant lot, send us a photo, the address and a short (50 words or so) description of why your vacant lot is the worst vacant lot in Sacramento. We’ll post some of them online and the winning lot will receive a sorrowful nod of recognition.

When I found out who owned it, I was in shock. No, it wasn’t some investment group from China, or a ghost ship mortgage holding company. Nor was it a ne’er-do-well slumlord. It’s the state of California, specifically CalPERS.

Oh, and we will also throw in some light public humiliation to spur someone to action.

Dick Tuck, the noted political prankster, once ran for the California Senate. One of his slogans was: “The Los Angeles River: Either Fill It Up Or Paint It Blue.”

We feel the same way about these myriad vacant lots/fields of nightmares.

Send your nominations to dmorain@sacbee.com.

Jack Ohman: 916-321-1911, @JACKOHMAN

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