McKinley Village neighborhood poised for approval next year

Favorable draft environmental-impact report sets the stage for Sacramento's largest urban-infill project in years

The city could green-light McKinley Village, a planned development on the almond-shaped sliver of land just north of East Sacramento, as early as next spring.

The city could green-light McKinley Village, a planned development on the almond-shaped sliver of land just north of East Sacramento, as early as next spring.

photo courtesy of riverview capital investments

Just about everyone who commutes to Sacramento on Business 80 from Roseville’s suburbs has at one time or another likely wondered about that empty plot of land just past Cal Expo. The vacant 48 acres left of the freeway before the E Street exit is home to a few billboards, a lot of brush and a couple train tracks in the distance. But in a few years, this could all change: It is poised to become the city’s biggest urban-infill neighborhood in decades.

Earlier this month, McKinley Village, the planned 328-unit residential community that’s sparked the ire of some central-city neighbors, received a favorable preliminary environmental review, paving the way for city approval sometime early next year.

Lead project developer and former State Treasurer Phil Angelides was optimistic but also tempered in his enthusiasm about the project during a chat with SN&R.

“We’re optimistic because of what’s transpired in the past couple weeks … but we also know we have a lot of work to do,” he said.

Neighbors, some of whom vociferously opposed McKinley Village during community meetings this summer, awaited this month’s draft environmental-impact report with anticipation.

Its release, however, was an affirmation of the project’s credentials: The draft report, released on November 8, found that McKinley Village would be able to mitigate all environmental impacts to below “significant” levels.

EIRs, which take months to complete, evaluate a project’s effects on topics such as air quality and water quality, urban design and public safety, and even climate change.

McKinley Village, it was found, would generate significant increases in carbon emissions and would also impact nearby intersections and neighborhood traffic during construction. But the report recommended “mitigation measures” that would render these impacts “less than significant.”

The favorable report increases the probability that city council and the design and planning commission will approve the new neighborhood as early as March 2014.

Neighbors are still concerned about how residents traveling to and from the community will increase traffic on nearby East Sacramento, McKinley Park and Midtown streets. McKinley Village will have only two points of entry, one at 40th Street and another at A and 28th streets; current residents envision swaths of new commuter traffic converging on their quiet, heritage neighborhoods.

But the EIR says this won’t happen. “It did find that the traffic impact would be less than significant,” Angelides reaffirmed.

Some community groups, such as the East Sacramento Preservation Neighborhood Association, still maintain that traffic will be a nightmare and are fighting the city’s report. The group is circulating a petition and is also asking residents to email the city to voice disagreement on the findings.

Other groups, such as Neighbors United for Smart Growth, have said that the city’s EIR went too easy on McKinley Village, and that the developer won’t have to address issues such as jammed roadways or overcrowded schools because of an influx of new residents.

“[T]he City has gone by the book in using the minimum standards for assessing impacts,” NUSG wrote in response to the EIR earlier this month.

Angelides said the traffic studies have been “more than ample.”

Before the report surfaced, a coalition of Sacramento leaders and policy groups had expressed support for McKinley Village. The Sacramento Area Council of Governments, or SACOG, cited the project as consistent with its Sustainable Communities Strategy for 2035. Three former council members representing East Sacramento approve the community.

The city’s planning and design commission, in a meeting this past October, unanimously praised the project’s design scheme. They nitpicked about a few small details, such as the variety of housing styles, but they ultimately set the table for approval when Angelides brings McKinley Village back to the board for a final stamp in late March 2014.

“Yes, we’ve made substantial progress,” Angelides said. “But we’re continuing to refine the plan. We’re continuing to meet with a range of community groups.”

Moving forward, the hearing period for the draft EIR ends in late December. If approved by the council early next year, McKinley Village could begin construction in spring 2014, with model homes by December and sales in April 2015.

In the print version of this story, it was implied that Councilman Steve Cohn voiced approval of the McKinley Village project. That is not true; the council member has not taken a position on the project. The story’s author regrets this error.