My city is gone

Is Sacramento losing its identity?

Candice Martinez is a South Sacramento native.

Candice Martinez is a South Sacramento native.

The changes to Sacramento have become more obvious over the last couple of years, and I don’t know what to make of them. As a born and raised Sacramentan, it’s strange to see neighborhoods become unfamiliar.

It’s easy for me to slip into the worn-out “Oh, these Bay Area strangers are trying to turn my little cowtown into the city we can’t afford anymore,” and I know that’s not completely fair.

I just don’t know how I feel when a Mexican restaurant opens in Oak Park, selling elotes for $6 or $7 when they’re only $3 near Franklin Boulevard, and the place is full of… um… pale faces. It’s weird to see an empty lot crammed with small houses along the 65th Street expressway. It’s annoying to see marijuana shops in South Sacramento as the new businesses.

I’m not necessarily surprised by “revitalization.” After all, Sacramento “revitalized” during previous generations—the heart of Japantown became Capitol Mall and Old Sacramento was built over working-class Latino neighborhoods. In my era in South Sacramento, revitalization manifested as people walking miles to a grocery store, past marijuana dispensaries, a tattoo parlor, or a used car lot. New businesses occupied decaying storefronts, but whose life improved?

As far as I know, revitalization systematically razes small businesses and housing to replace it with things that serve no discernible purpose to the displaced community.

But I also know change is inevitable. I know there are plenty of older Sacramentans who have seen countless more things erased or transformed about their city than I’ve seen lately. It just doesn’t seem like this is regular expansion and growth. When I encounter new developments, I get a sense that Sacramento is a bit confused. I’m left thinking: “Why is Sacramento ashamed at being a small town focused on the drudge of working for the state? Why does it want to be a bigger city?”

Lately, Sacramento wants to be a destination, but isn’t it already a destination because it’s the state capital, because of its mildly Podunk charm? It’s kitschy and history-based and boring if you live here. I did most of the to-do list for museums and theater and whatnot by the time I was a teenager.

But Sacramento is still different. Not everyone gets to live so close to such an important level of government, as much documented history, to the City of Trees beauty, to our diversity.

Sacramento has an identity. If we want more, we’re about an hour away from “more exciting” places. Wanting a semi-sleepy hometown doesn’t mean you don’t want fun and new things.

But I don’t want to hear about craft beer and how people of color are prioritized for small business licenses for weed. I don’t want to hear about how the city can attract and keep new people.

I just want Sacramento to focus on the people who have always been here.