Public grousing

Land Park projects on hold as city leaders, developers reload

For maybe the first time ever, a disgruntled developer and dozens of low-income Sacramento residents find themselves on the same side of a political issue. Of course, it’s for very different reasons.

On November 20, the Sacramento City Council—acting in its guise as the city’s housing-authority board—agreed to take a deep breath on a major public-housing overhaul, one that many residents and neighbors are still learning about.

But the pause may also buy the city time to shoehorn its preferred developer into the game.

Northwest Land Park LLC wants to construct a retail-peppered, 825-unit subdivision along a vacant tract of empty industrial warehouses on the old Setzer property just south of Broadway.

But Northwest’s proposal to also take on two adjacent public-housing sites—Marina Vista and Alder Grove, both nearby in Land Park—was rejected by a city selection committee. Instead, the seven-member committee recommended they work with public-housing bona fides made up of Related Companies of California, Mercy Housing California and Regis Homes of Sacramento.

Meanwhile, city council members on the housing-authority board, who made their preference for Northwest known as early as June, seemed irked when the company wasn’t recommended. But housing advocates were pleased by the decision.

“We were afraid [Northwest] was going to get it,” said Sacramento Resident Advisory Board treasurer Gale Morgan, whose organization went from protesting the city’s public-housing plans in July to cautiously supporting them last week after the Northwest bid was turned away.

In a telephone interview with SN&R, Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency assistant director Chris Pahule explained that the selection committee identified “two [development teams] that were much more qualified.”

At the same time that Northwest was jockeying for a second chance at the November 20 meeting, dozens of public-housing residents pressed for a slower process.

“The shrouded nature of this development project has created distrust,” contended Land Park resident Carl Hubbard.

Rob Fong, the district’s outgoing councilman, suggested the board delay selecting a development team until the city can devise a more inclusive process that looks beyond the two aging structures.

City Manager John Shirey cited a need to “almost start over.”

Marina Vista and Alder Grove, located a mile apart just south of Broadway’s commercial strip, represent the city’s oldest and largest public-housing structures. Built out of hardy brickwork shortly before the days of World War II, they total 751 units swathing roughly 70 acres.

The buildings’ 2,500-odd residents would have to relocate during the several years it would take to rebuild their homes, creating a mess of logistical issues that will need to worked out, Pahule said.

Approving the development team would have given the city a six-month timetable to nail down an exclusive agreement before a lengthy planning phase begins. Instead, the housing authority will revisit the topic on January 8, when either Steve Hansen or Joe Yee will be sitting in Fong’s chair.

Fong, who’s been trying to get something going in this neighborhood for half a decade, did acknowledge a desire to cast a vote its way before leaving office. But a more “practical” urgency, he said, was the 31-acre “blank-slate” Setzer property that sits in the belly of the public-housing structures.

“The window that is Setzer is closing soon, because they do have a plan,” he said.

Repeated mentions of that plan made Morgan’s cohorts at the resident advisory board think Northwest may still find a role.

“I believe [the board is] still looking at that developer, because now it’s a bigger project,” SRAB vice president Barbara Stanton told SN&R. “Who knows what’s going to happen on January 8? All I care about is that the residents get to work with a good development team and are informed and included every step of the way.”

Land Park residents got what they asked for on November 20, but it remains to be seen whether it’s what they need.