Kissing the Bee’s assets goodbye

Grantland Johnson: not just another floating head.

Grantland Johnson: not just another floating head.

Bites has always thought of The Sacramento Bee complex in Midtown as the “Q Street colossus.” But these days the Bee is downsizing its paper product, and its real-estate footprint is shrinking, too.

Bites has learned that the Bee is putting its fancy parking structure on 21st and Q streets on the market. Bites asked Bee spokesperson Pam Dinsmore if getting rid of the parking structure had to do with the company’s downsized workforce.

“That’s really not part of the equation. It’s more that someone was interested in it,” said Dinsmore.

Oh, and the Bee needs the cash.

Dinsmore said she couldn’t say who the possible buyer is. It could be a parking lot operator, who would then work out a deal with the Bee for employee parking and open the lot to the public. Or it could be a developer, positioning themselves on a pretty sweet parcel and waiting for the market to come back. In fact, one rumor is that a grocery-store chain is looking at the property. They could keep the parking and build retail on top. Sure, there’s a Safeway just around the corner, but that’s never stopped Trader Joe’s, for example. And those grocery-bagging jobs couldn’t come a moment too soon for the central city’s underemployed journalists.

Bites can start rumors, and confirm them, too. Grantland Johnson is definitely running to replace County Supervisor Roger Dickinson in 2010. Dickinson will have to give up his seat in order to run in the Democratic primary for state Assembly. That Assembly seat is being vacated by a termed-out Dave Jones, and Dickinson will be facing two tough opponents for the 10th District slot, Sacramento City Council members Lauren Hammond and Kevin McCarty.

Johnson is a formidable candidate, having served at every level of government—local, state and federal. He was the city’s first African-American council member, serving from 1983 to 1986. He beat Dickinson in 1986 to win the District 1 supervisor seat and was re-elected in 1990.

He left to take a job in Bill Clinton’s U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and then later served as the state secretary of health and human services during the Gray Davis administration.

More recently, Johnson worked with the Sacramento Central Labor Council and then with a nonprofit affordable-housing developer called the Community Housing Opportunities Corporation. He is also currently serving as a member of the Sacramento City Charter Review Committee.

“I thought given the state of the county right now—and the impact that the budget has had on many of the programs and services that I helped create,” Johnson informed Bites, “I thought Sacramento could benefit from someone with a long-range perspective.”

He added that the county budget problems go deeper than the current recession. “The way we finance local government is outdated. We need to go back and give it a top-to-bottom review.” He means rethinking the relationship between state and local government, as well as the need for the county and its cities to share tax revenue.

There are no guarantees, but his labor council ties could help him lock up some critical union endorsements. “I’ve gotten a lot of positive response and support so far,” he said.

Johnson toyed with the idea of running for mayor last year, but abandoned it early on (before a younger, much less experienced Kevin Johnson jumped into the race), mostly because of family obligations and health problems. He had eye surgery last year, and now says he’s fully recovered.

“I wanted to make sure to run the best campaign that I can run,” said Johnson, adding that he is close to picking his campaign team. Getting in first is a good start.