If fully built out as developers and planners envision, in 20 years the railyard in downtown Sacramento will be a minicity, home to as many as 21,000 residents and 23,000 jobs.
That’s a big if. There are lots of logistical hurdles including traffic – not to mention whether enough market demand exists. But a new environmental impact report, released Friday, didn’t find any insurmountable roadblocks.
Approval of the environmental report is one of the last legal steps before actual construction might begin on the 244-acre site, probably not until 2018. Public comments are being accepted through July 27, and there’s an open house Wednesday night at the downtown public library. The final environmental report is to be issued in October, with a City Council hearing in November.
While there are many details to be worked out, already a couple of issues require the council’s attention.
One is affordable housing. Of the 6,000 to 10,000 residential units, only 267 affordable units, financed by state grants, are definite.
There’s a pledge of mixed-income housing, but it’s unclear how many units because the city no longer requires developers in new growth areas to build a certain amount of low-income housing. Instead, they pay fees to fund projects throughout the city.
We certainly don’t want a huge part of downtown where most residents are priced out. Council members ought to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Another issue is a proposed stormwater system pumping into the Sacramento River. It’s expected to cost more than $10 million, funded by a mix of sources, including federal and developer money, but also a city contribution.
In concept, it’s a good idea to keep stormwater out of downtown’s existing system, where sewage and stormwater go through the same aging pipes. But the council must closely watch how much the public is being asked to pay.
This 3,700-page report updates a 2007 plan to account for two anchor projects – a 420-bed hospital planned by Kaiser Permanente and a 20,000-seat soccer stadium contingent on Republic FC winning a Major League Soccer franchise.
Mayor Kevin Johnson says the railyard will be a “national model for how to build cities in the 21st century.” Maybe so, but only if officials get the details right from the start.