Rancho Cordova

Rancho Cordova is bent on improving its quality of life and beautifying its neighborhoods with an initiative city officials say is changing the face of the community.

The program, Growing Strong Neighborhoods, was launched by Mayor David Sander in 2007 in his first term as mayor and is being upgraded this year in Sanders’ second round as mayor.

The initiative aims to make Rancho Cordova a better place, said Troy Holt, city public information and legislative affairs manager.

“It has inspired people to improve our neighborhoods,” Holt said. “(The program) is a citywide effort that includes several elements, such as the Blight Busters property-cleanup program, a panhandling task force, a beautification effort, a graffiti-cleanup effort, a probation task force and the core piece — a volunteer program to bring the involvement of citizens to the heart of improving the community in which they live,work, play and raise their children.”

Paul Junker, city planning director, said it’s a home-grown, collaborative program involving the city, residents and various agencies, neighborhood associations, community services organizations and churches.

“Growing Strong Neighborhoods reflects how much we value the community and residents,” Junker said.

The initiative aims to curb panhandling by launching a “Have a Heart, Donate Smart” campaign that encourages people to support local agencies that serve people in need.

The beautification program prioritizes efforts in landscaping, street cleaning and graffiti abatement on city property and urges residents to improve their properties. Many residents have taken up the challenge and upgraded their homes and gardens.

A new-home project also is the result of a cooperative effort. The city worked with a developer to build Crossings at New Rancho, a housing complex for low-income residents along Folsom Boulevard. The project has encouraged some nearby apartments to implement upgrades, Junker said.

The largest project in the city is Capital Village, which has completed its current phase, Junker said. It’s part of a master-planned community consisting of residential, commercial and retail units surrounding a central park.

Capital Village was the recipient of the California chapter of the American Planning Association’s 2009 Planning Project Award.

Other new-home communities are by Lennar, which has single-family homes at Andravida II at Kavala Ranch, Carina at Anatolia, Cazadero at Kavala Ranch and Verano II at Kavala Ranch. Home prices start at $231,990.

K. Hovnanian Homes is offering single family homes at Rio del Oro, with prices from approximately $250,000. Rio del Oro is a 3,800-acre site that will eventually have 11,600 homes surrounding a 45-acre park.

Elliott Homes, U.S. Homes and Lennar are expected to add about 5,000 homes in projects over the next eight or nine years, said Megan Hoffman, economic development specialist for the city.

Older neighborhoods in Rancho Cordova provide amenities that appeal to young families and first-time buyers. They’re within walking distance of schools and parks.

According to, resale-home prices in Rancho Cordova range from $79,900 for a 900-square-foot home with two bedrooms and one bathroom to $800,000 for a 4,200-square foot home with four bedrooms and three bathrooms.

“Things seem to be on the upturn, with a firming of real estate prices and a cleaning out of distressed-sale homes,” Junker said. “We certainly won’t bounce back to 2005, but the good news is that housing is very affordable and a good attraction for employees and employers.”

Junker said he’s optimistic, noticing signs of a “gentle stabilization.” He considers the city’s location on the American River and within the Sacramento region its biggest attractions.

“It’s also a great community of folks who really like to work together and kids who growup, leave for school and who return here to their roots because of the employment opportunities,” he said.

“The benefits of living in Rancho Cordova are the people and the passion the business community has about this area,” said Diann Rogers, president and CEO of the Rancho Cordova Chamber of Commerce.

Representatives of the city, chamber and police and fire departments conducted a businesswalk in the community, she said, asking business owners what they liked about Rancho Cordova.

“There was an extraordinary response that they like being in the community,” Rogers said. “We took the pulse of Rancho Cordova, and the pulse is very strong.”

Access to Highway 50 got a huge response, Rogers said.

“We also have Mather Airport, the former Mather Air Force Base, which is used by major businesses, Federal Express and United Parcel Service,” she said.

Commuting from Rancho Cordova is convenient. Five Regional Transit light-rail stations are in the city, and some employees can take a commuter shuttle, the Rancho Cordovan, to several business locations. Warehouse and office space is among the least expensive in the region, Rogers said. More than 14 million square feet of office space or approximately 25 percent of the office space in the Sacramento region is in Rancho Cordova.

The city is home to several Fortune 500 companies and is the second largest center for jobs and commerce in the Sacramento region. Among employers are Vision Service Plan, Bloodsource, Bank of America, Delta Dental and Franklin Templeton. Insurance companies, schools, manufacturers, auto recyclers and hightechnology firms are in Rancho Cordova.

Business growth in the city spiked as a result of the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. The disaster disrupted many Bay Area firms, which then moved to Rancho Cordova because it’s outside earthquake fault areas and above flood plains.

Businesses benefit from Rancho Cordova’s many schools and training centers, which provide interns and well-trained employees whose studies are tailored to area business needs, Rogers said.In the area are Heald College, Athem College, ITT Technical Institute, University of Phoenix, National Career Education, California Northstate College of Pharmacy, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at Mather, among others.

Most students in kindergarten through 12th grade attend schools in Folsom Cordova Unified School District. Some areas are served by Sacramento City and Elk Grove Unified school districts.

Rancho Cordova’s amenities, attractions and activities are the result of close cooperation among three entities, known as the “three legged stool”: the city, the chamber and the Cordova Community Council.

“We’ve added a fourth leg — Rancho Cordova Travel and Tourism,” Rogers said. “Each agency is independently fine on its own, but when all these groups work together, it’s a very formidable force for the city.”

Among attractions that draw people from the city and the region are iFest, showcasing the city’s cultural heritage; the California Capital Airshow at Mather Airport; Kids Day in the Park; a Fourth of July celebration; and a community Christmas tree lighting. Rancho Cordova also has access to 10 miles of the American River Bicycle Trail and Parkway, providing opportunities for boating, fishing and swimming.

Incorporated in 2003, Rancho Cordova is one of California’s newest cities, but it’s among the Sacramento region’s older settlements, dating back to the Gold Rush, when it was known as Hangtown Crossing. It later became an agriculturalarea known for its wine grapes, hops and peach and pear orchards.

That changed in the mid-1950s when the then-Soviet Union launched Sputnik into space and sparked the development of Aerojet, the United States’ key site for rocket-engine development, testing and production.

Aerojet and Mather Air Force Base, which began as Mather Field in 1918, accounted for the population explosion in Rancho Cordova and nearby communities. Mather Field was used during World War II for training pilots, navigator observers and bombardiers. It’s now Mather Regional Park and Mather Airport.