Name that ‘hood

Behold, the flatness.

Behold, the flatness.

It’s easy to forget that Sacramento is flat. You can ride, walk, scooter and moped the hell out of this town and never meet a hill—unless you call riding north on 21st Street “a climb” (wuss).

Looking out over the city from the 13th floor balcony of the new Citizen Hotel re-emphasizes the city’s flapjack topography. Or is a waffle more apropos? Either way, the view from above also betrays: energy that lives on the streets—Proposition 8 protests, Second Saturday, Ground Chuck, suburbanites driving the wrong direction on a one-way—isn’t all that palpable from up top. Those alphanumerical thoroughfares feel tame hidden under an awning of maples, birches and oaks.

Hanging out on the top-floor balcony also gets the blood pumping: I’m Sacramentan; I’m not supposed to be vertical. Or perhaps that’s just the acrophobia kicking in. Kipp Blewett, whose company Rubicon Partners owns the hotel, says the three-quarter height railing is unequivocally sturdy. And of course it is. I’m just not used to this.

The Citizen Hotel, which opens on November 30, is an unchained chain hotel that hums its own unique melody. Part of the Joie de Vivre family, which is known for revitalizing neighborhoods with its idiosyncratic hospitality, the Citizen is cool digs. I’ve stayed at Hotel Rex and Hotel Adagio, two JDV mainstays in San Francisco, and this new hotel, while pricey, has an egalitarian charm.

The 926 J Street building was a project of the official state architect and eventually completed in 1925, Sacramento’s first skyscraper. Soon after, with the Capitol and the later-completed Elks building, it was part of Sac’s original architectural trinity. But in its waning years, before the hotel transformation, the building was a dreary headquarters for various nonprofits.

Now, it’s transformed. The rooms’ ceilings are tall, 12-and-a-half feet. All the hotel’s details try to be period-correct (all the railing, for example, is original). The carpet is a vibrant gold and red, like a subdued Shepard Fairey screen print. Each elevator had aluminum casing, but when workers took it off beautiful marble was underneath. Sacramento Bee cartoonist Newton Pratt comic strips hang in the rooms, and all the 198 abodes’ furnishings are custom-made. There’ll be a bar, Scandal, with a Rex Babin cartoon vignette, “Mr. Smith Goes to Sacramento,” on the ground floor. And adjoining the hotel will be Grange (opens December 1), a restaurant and bar where the chef, Michael Tuohy, will espouse tenets of the Slow Food movement.

Blewett says Grange will “glow like a jewel box” on 10th Street, and likely will transform the district. So what do we call the new ’hood? Capitol Heights? K.J.’s Quarter? Rodney’s Reach, after the corner liquor store?

Whatever they name it, just don’t call it The Flats: Sac is getting a little taller.