Sacramentans share what they think Sacramento should look like in 25 years
SN&R celebrates its silver anniversary by looking forward to 2039
Close your eyes: Visualize Sacramento’s transformation over the past 25 years. Try to remember what 16th, 20th, L and K streets felt like in 1989, long before the nightlife and housing that exists on those strips today. Way out in the burbs, the Roseville we know now was but mile after mile of empty fields in ’89. Ditto Elk Grove. Two-and-a-half decades isn’t much time—but this region’s seen a major population and development shift.
For this 25th-anniversary issue, we asked Sacramentans to look forward and share what they want Sacramento to be in another 25. The year 2039 seems far away. But if looking back teaches us anything, it’s that we really don’t have that much time after all.
Street musicians, artists and food trucks will run the city, and people will no longer care about or support soulless, overpriced, corporately owned bars and restaurants. They will have vanished. The city will finally recognize the value and importance of locally owned shops, cafes, art spaces and live-music venues, and all will flourish. As the future mayor of the city, I will do everything within my power to see to this.
Sacramento County supervisor
Twenty-five years from now, I'm hopeful our downtowns, suburbs, residential neighborhoods, office parks and industrial areas alike all reflect today's conscious planning efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. It will have been more than three decades since both Assembly Bill 32 and Senate Bill 375 were adopted, and it will be telling to see where and how we work, live, play and travel either respects the intent of this historic legislation or not.
I’ll be 71 years old in 2039 (hopefully), and the optimist in me says I and others will see evidence that back in 2014, we took seriously our charge to minimize climate-change impacts by pursuing more infill-development opportunities, reducing vehicle-miles traveled, expanding access to alternative transportation and otherwise taking seriously the fact that the status quo was not an option. This is my hope.
manager, Sac Geeks
In 25 years, Sacramento will be run by the next generation of geeks—playful but efficient young adults who are constantly connected to each other and always have a wealth of information at their fingertips. They'll talk in constant references to favorite memes, books, film, TV and music in ways that would make all exchanges and conversations sound obscure and confusing to anyone who's not keeping up with pop culture. The kids of the future will be color-blind in terms of race, and not concerned with sexual orientation and probably not as obsessed with appearance, but might be kind of elitist when it comes to cultural knowledge and technological aptitude! They'll be critical thinkers who challenge the status quo and love innovation and ideas that improve the planet.
executive director, Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission
By 2029, the Studio for the Performing Arts is well into its 40-year lease of the historic Fremont School for Adults building. The Verge Center for the Arts has grown to be one of the most important contemporary art museums on the West Coast. Sacramento is now home to a major theater complex (that incidentally launches the career of a young Sacramento architect).
The development of the sports and entertainment complex motivated the implementation of the only public art walk in the country.
The death of Sacramento poet and visual artist José Montoya in 2013 stirs a public-private partnership to develop a multicultural center, which is completed in 2018.
The success of Ali Youssefi’s low-income artist-housing project on R Street inspires a migration of artists to Sacramento. These artists, in a remarkable collaboration with Sacramento State University and the Sacramento Valley Conservancy artist-in-residence program at Camp Pollock, establish the Center for Art and the Environment.
Sacramento’s 13 school districts have become a model of collaboration, resulting in arts teachers in all four arts disciplines in every school.
All this makes Sacramento one of the most desirable places to live and visit in the country.
co-owner, Witch Room music venue
I hope Sacramento feels the way it feels right now forever. I want to take my bike out of my house and ride it directly to see a band, meet friends for drinks or good food, go to a dance party, and then wake up the next day and jump off a boulder into the river. I hope the rents stay low and the trees stay tall. I have lived in and traveled to many cities in many countries, but none have accepted the wide variety of cultures and interests that we do here.
The first priority for Sacramento's next 25 years is avoiding the disastrous effects of climate change. We can't do that on our own, but as a city and region at risk of disaster, we can set the example. If we fail to change our course, there isn't much hope for a long-term future.
Fortunately, most of what has to be done to change course is pretty simple. The simplest way to reduce our carbon footprint is live closer to work. Twentieth-century autocentric regions like ours disconnected the traditional proximity of home and work via the automobile, exchanging massive resources and energy use for short-term convenience. The long-term effects are the long commutes and traffic jams familiar to Sacramentans today, and the consequences of climate change. Limiting greenfield sprawl and reconnecting our neighborhoods via transit can reverse this process. Mixed-use and transit-oriented development is familiar enough in Sacramento’s central city neighborhoods and streetcar suburbs, as that is how they were originally built. The same ideas can help turn the region’s auto-dependent suburbs into interdependent cities, and dramatically reduce our energy consumption.
Building a sustainable city in the next 25 years does not mean demolishing the city we have. Rehabilitation of neighborhoods and infill on our abundant parking lots means having our city and keeping it, too; the greenest building is one that is already built. Those [old] romantic photographs of crowds shopping on K Street were made possible by an abundance of nearby housing, not automobiles. Returning population to our traditional neighborhoods, especially the depopulated central business district, is a proven strategy to revitalize cities while reducing per capita energy consumption.
We must make a conscious, regional effort to change course inward instead of sprawling outward.
Sister Libby Fernandez
Sacramento Loaves & Fishes
I would like to see Sacramento embrace all of its citizens, especially those who are homeless!
I would like to see the city of Sacramento end the anti-camping ordinance and allow those of means—private, faith-based and public-property owners—to allow homeless people to sleep at night on their property until adequate, affordable and supportive housing is provided.
owner, Sacramento Comedy Spot
I have traveled through time in my Spaceship of the Imagination to Sacramento in the year 2039, and I am happy to report the following: Sacramento no longer cares what Seattle or San Francisco is doing since Mayor Clay Nutting passed the “I am Somebody” city ordinance in 2024. With this new sense of self, Sacramento created a network of solar arrays and wind turbines, which produce enough energy so that every citizen has free power. Sacramento also recycles 80 percent of its water. The combination of energy and water independence has allowed the city to prosper. On my return trip to 2014, I flew past Sacramento's G.T. (Gondola Transit) system that runs from western Sacramento (formerly West Sacramento), through downtown's beautiful skyline of multiple 100-story buildings, over Midtown's numerous residential buildings, restaurants, art and entertainment venues, and ends at the world-renowned Sacramento State University.
mayor, West Sacramento
In the same way that we no longer conceive of Land Park or East Sacramento as the remote suburbs they once were, our concept of urban Sacramento will extend far beyond the grid.
We’re doing that quite deliberately in the waterfront districts of West Sacramento, but you can bet that the scope of “the city” grows in all directions. It is a phenomenon enabled partly by the extension of urban transportation forms—we’re building more light rail, streetcars, bike lanes and “complete streets” in the inner-ring suburbs—and partly by the oversupply of four- and five-bedroom homes as changing demographics, land-use policies and consumer preferences diversify the housing market. Inner-ring suburbs like Carmichael or Arden Arcade or even full-blown cities like Rancho Cordova (which uses the term “first-tier suburb”) will be transformed as both empty and underutilized strip malls, and even housing tracts convert, due to these market forces, to new urban forms that might riff off what we see today in Midtown.
owner, Uptown Studios
In 25 years, it is my hope that Sacramento is known as the most walkable city. Dreams of total pedestrian thoroughfares in Midtown and downtown with wide bike lanes. Stores stay open til 9 p.m. for walking and biking shoppers. Regional Transit is free and has been free for 20 years, and it has become the preferred transportation for people commuting to work. The homeless have respite space that keeps them comfortable and safe and transitions them into permanent residences. Midtown and downtown are the places that the creative class has taken over and created a living and working paradise—fair housing, transportation and bikes and walking rule the way instead of cars, because the city has abundant alternative ways to move people with vehicles. It's a mecca of a greener city!
artist and co-owner of L/C Mural & Design
If Sacramento were a woman, in 25 years she would have traded a conservative and slightly self-conscious wardrobe for a colorful and eclectic one that reflects a confidence and open spirit. Sacramento will attract visionary leaders—creatives who are motivated to take risks and do the unexpected. The more diverse voices, the more collaboration, the more full and inviting the city. Sacramento will have developed an attuned eye for the elegant and be rewarded by appreciative and somewhat surprised smiles.
president, North Sacramento Land Company
We might be a place that then welcomes the poor into rich neighborhoods—for access to their safe parks, streets and schools, and simple things like grocery stores and garbage-free streets—unlike today.
That we would measure ourselves as a “world-class city” not by arenas and pituitary cases going back and forth on maple planks, but by the quality of our educational system, our arts and dance and music institutions, our open spaces, to escape and reflect and our culture of giving back. Hope springs eternal.
executive director, Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness
2039 will mark the 95th anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's State of the Union address to Congress, often referred to as the “Second Bill of Rights” or the “Economic Bill of Rights.” Among these rights, FDR reaffirmed the right to a living wage, the right to be free from hunger, the right to a decent home, the right to good health and the right to a good education. In the next 25 years, the vision I have for Sacramento is that it will have fully embraced FDR's Economic Bill of Rights. For me, it is important that we are located on a river evoking the phrase, “Let justice flow down like water and righteousness like an everlasting stream.”
founder, Soil Born Farms
Over the next 25 years, Sacramento has an opportunity to set the gold standard when it comes to demonstrating how a community can feed itself and feed the world while promoting long-term personal, environmental and economic health. This potential hinges on the creation of a single regional food-system plan that guides both urban and rural communities in collaborative food production, food education and food-infrastructure investments.
I would like to see a Sacramento that does more than just pay lip service to the idea of nurturing a thriving live-music scene.
Anyone who knows anything about what creates momentum in a live-music scene, which I would guess is no one who had anything to do with implementing the arbitrary stipulations in the current entertainment permit, would know that true momentum and growth comes from the involvement of young people in the scene. But rules such as “venues serving alcohol must have the minors out by 10 p.m.” discourage businesses from even wanting to make the shows all-ages. It is far more lucrative in this current “get your beer on” Sacramento to make a venue 21-and-over, than to sacrifice losing their whole audience at 10 p.m. when the show has to be over.
If Sacramento wants to be a place known for introducing great talent to the world (and not just for great bands from 20-plus years ago), and where local acts are held in the same high regard as touring acts, and truly wants to embrace and celebrate its own unique cultural qualities (as is the case when a great band emerges from any city), then we need to re-examine the strange stumbling blocks placed in front of anyone trying to successfully present live music to everyone in Sacramento. Otherwise, we will slowly slip backward into a scene where the most “popular” bands are the ones that go best with the chatter of a marginally engaged crowd ordering yet another cold brew.
president, Sacramento State University
Imagine, in 25 years, if college students can experience a Sacramento State education that seamlessly aligns technology with face-to-face learning. By then, “writing a paper” may not involve paper at all, and computer labs with rows of individual machines may only exist as museum exhibits. By 2039, I hope our graduates enter a job market that needs their skills and appreciates their connections to local neighborhoods and the world at large. I hope students still enjoy hanging out in the campus pizza place. Mostly, I hope public higher education in 2039 is ready to meet the challenges of 2040 and beyond.
executive director, Verge Center for the Arts
This summer marks my 20th year out of high school, which seems impossible and makes me wonder where the time went. In reflecting on this fact, I realized that my experiences over the past 20 years have been so varied that I almost don't feel like I've lived in Sacramento this entire time. Our region has grown in leaps and bounds, with the past 10 years especially expanding at what feels like a warp-speed pace.
As we embark on this next chapter, the words of Oscar Wilde are perhaps the most apt: “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” Sacramento boasts a beautiful waterfront, a wealth of talented artists, a tenacious live-music community, a growing list of creative and outstanding new restaurants as well as a rich ethnic-food scene, outstanding agriculture, a unique civic history marked by the discovery of gold, a burgeoning beer and spirits industry, and a community of young entrepreneurs who are invigorating a variety of industries in the community.
We are often compared to cities like Portland and Austin. In 25 years, my dream is not that we look more like these cities, but rather that we look distinctly, essentially and gloriously like Sacramento.
Robert Lee Chase
I moved here 20 years ago from Los Angeles and have seen many (and unfortunately, not so many) changes in that time period.
In 25 years, the rail yards will be built out and integrated into our existing downtown. Midtown (where I live) will continue to blossom as a wonderful mixed-use part of town—more housing, more restaurants, etc.
I hope to see more bridges across both rivers—not only for enhanced connectivity for residents, but for public safety in the event of mass evacuation. I would like to see housing and restaurants built at the Sacramento Marina in Miller Park—think Jack London Square [in Oakland] or Benicia. Housing with water views is spectacular—most cities do not have that amenity to exploit—we should make the most of it!
founder, California Food Literacy Center
I hope that in 25 years, food-literacy education is mandatory like math and reading. By then, the fifth graders that I'm teaching might be chiefs of staff in the California Legislature. They might be cooking at Sac's best restaurants or running local school cafeterias. Their ability to influence change will be profound. Let's ensure that these kids are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to form healthy, produce-centered habits that will influence Sacramento for the long term.
executive director, Safe Ground Sacramento
Twenty-five years from now, I believe we will live in a Sacramento that has been refocused on improving the lives of all the people who live in the city and region. There is little doubt that the Sacramento of 2039 will be very different from today, probably in ways we barely envision now. However, my conceptual vision for the future Sacramento is a community that cares about its citizens and provides increased equity in terms of educational and housing opportunities, transportation choices, availability of healthy food, universally available health-care choices. All this is aimed at building our neighborhoods into healthy, sustainable communities.
co-founder, Hacker Lab
I have been in Sacramento most of my life. I have spent of most if it wanting to leave and go back to my hometown of Los Angeles. I even moved to the Bay Area for three years. When I returned, I was pleasantly surprised by the change of scenery, in more ways than one. Sacramento is very fortunate right now to have an army of civic, city and social leaders who care strongly about progress and change. I think Sacramento will be a destination city for both business and leisure in 25 years. It is very exciting to see an emphasis on entertainment, technology and civic goodness. Exciting times ahead!
CEO, Temple Coffee
A city open for business 24-hours a day.
A city whose freeways are not any wider than they are now.
A city where there are food vendors on the sidewalks selling locally inspired eats.
A city that has a fully developed river surrounded by houses, parks and businesses, with river taxis running up and down taking people to and from work.
A city whose bike trails are full of commuters.
A city government that is pro-business by making it easier to open, own and operate within the city limits.
A city where education is equal and free regardless of what neighborhood you live in.
A city where the museums and state parks are free to all.
A city that is not afraid to set the trends, rather than follow them.
owner, Muse ArtHaus
In 25 years, I would like Sacramento to be a superchic true river city. With shops and eateries developed along the river—and ferries and boats that take you from one area to the next. I think that downtown and Midtown should be thriving with walking areas like R Street is on its way to becoming. There is so much that Sacramento has to offer. I think developers need to start considering the culture of our city as they are creating it. We are rich with music and art and food—more needs to be developed to celebrate this. I would love to see more open-air markets and farmers markets; we need to support our regional bounties. We are Northern California, let's act like it! Oh yeah—superchic and way pet friendly.
If people like me had their way, Sacramento in 25 years would be a major metro city akin to San Francisco, Los Angeles or Atlanta. Culture, music, theater. We'd have venues of every size we needed, we'd have a city government who wanted their buildings to be affordable and a strong arts-supporting population. We're making progress in that direction, but certainly not anywhere close to where we could be and where other cities are already.
Lt. Roman Murrietta
commander, Sacramento Police Department's Cops and Clergy program
What will Sacramento be like in 25 years for at-risk youth? We will see these youth not as at-risk, but rather underserved. The community will see us not just as the whipping boys of society, but rather as teachers and mentors to our youth. We, as a department, will continue to partner with our faith-based leaders, so that they continue to affect positive change. It really does take a community!
If the changes that will occur in the next 25 years are as transformational as those of the last 25, then we are in for lifestyle changes that we haven’t even begun to imagine.
In 1987, an apple was something that you ate.
Climate change meant going from summer to winter.
GM was too big to fail.
The iPhone wouldn’t even be invented until 2007.
Stem-cell research and genetic testing were just ideas.
So what lies ahead for Sacramento? I am no futurist, but it is clear that technology has forever changed the way we communicate, work and interact. And it will change the way we live, shop, drive, study, read, vote, socialize and fill our leisure hours.
director, Archival Gallery
Sacramento has an ever-growing art community, and I hope to see more commercial galleries as well as a return to membership-type spaces. I am sure Second Saturday will continue its metamorphosis and hopefully return to the original intent of showcasing art. Our downtown has become more vibrant in the past 10 years, and I expect it will continue to grow. Though I am not a big fan of the placement of the new arena, maybe a river breeze will improve the team's abilities.
executive director, Downtown Sacramento Partnership
In 25 years, Sacramento will have a thriving downtown that is not just a place where people go to work, but a place they call home.
For that matter, central-city neighborhoods like R Street, Township Nine and The Bridge District will be established, and the rail yards will be the new up-and-coming neighborhood. We’ll have a transit system that is robust and widely used. We’ll also have a full streetcar network that connects the grid to West Sac, and a museum campus that starts at the Crocker Art Museum and extends through Old Sac and up the river to the Powerhouse Science Center and rail yards. And we’ll finally embrace the river with waterfront development vis-agrave;-vis the rail yards. And after years of cultivating local entrepreneurs [the city will] be headquarters for a handful of homegrown Fortune 500 companies born and built in Sacramento.
Michael J. Heller
developer, Heller Pacific
City that the creative class wants to be in. Full of young people.
City where cutting edge architecture matters and is embraced.
City with significant density of housing of all kinds.
City less reliant on government.
City with private-sector company headquarters in our central business district.
City that has a thriving technology district.
City with lots of bridges connecting people and places.
City that embraces public transportation and less cars.
City with streets activated not only by restaurants and bars, but also by great retailers.
City that thinks progressively without limitations.
City that collaborates with all municipalities to accomplish big visions.
former mayoral candidate
Sacramento should look very different in 2039. Sacramentans should have kicked their fossil-fuel addiction, which is unhealthy in so many ways for humans as well as for the planetary ecology. (Readers will be happy to know this will mean no more leaf blowers!) And Sacramentans should have replaced aging fossil-fuel infrastructure such as freeways, parking lots and big-box malls with sustainable infrastructure, such as solar buildings, composting privies, solar cookers and permaculture gardens.
Sacramento’s suburban sprawl should have been relocalized and rearranged into many eco-villages of a few dozen houses and a few-hundred residents, surrounded by lush urban farms maintained by each eco-village. Much of this farmland will need to be reclaimed by removing most of the asphalt and concrete that currently smothers so much of the Valley.
executive director, Region Builders
In 2039, Sacramento will be one of the most prominent regions in the Western United States, with the first skyline built in the green era of development. Cities like Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova, Folsom and Roseville will have their own massive metropolitan footprints. Sacramento will boast of its professional sports base with its NBA, MLS and NHL teams.
president, Selvage Media
I think I'll leave all predictions alone.
But I do see one thing with great clarity. It’s not so much a prediction, but more of a foregone conclusion. And it’s this: Sacramento is destined to capture imaginations, attention and, ultimately, respect.
The work we’re doing today lays the foundation for this radical shift. All of us are playing a part in this renaissance, whether we know it or not. Hell, whether we believe it or not. Let me explain.
Sacramento spent a generation in stagnation. Our city and business “leaders” enjoyed their big fishiness in our small pond, patting each other on the back after each new land and or construction deal, then retiring to the Sutter Club for dinner and cigars. They never bought into the idea of a brighter tomorrow. They never had an eye to the future.
But in the early 2000s, the tiniest of shifts started. Outsiders came. People who had never been to Sacramento. People who weren’t jaded by decades of the nothingness. People who had new ideas about art, culture, the environment, technology and government. Little by little, these people brought their energy and fresh perspectives to the table. Few at first, these people catalyzed change.
This group of outsiders found pockets of like-minded locals who’d been yearning for progress but were unable to bring it to life. They partnered and built a new, vibrant Midtown, unlike anything that had been seen in Sacramento in decades. They opened restaurants, art galleries and businesses. They shared ideas, they bought into the idea of a better future for our city.
So what does all of this have to do with Sacramento in 2039? Quite a bit. For this is how it began. This is how we won.
Say the words “Austin,” “Denver” or “Portland,” and you instantly get a visual, perhaps even a feeling.
That’s the Sacramento of 2039. The work that has been started will continue. The engaged, intelligent and selfless people who began this movement in our city will grow their businesses, their families and leadership roles. Their businesses will create jobs in a more diversified economy than this city has ever seen. Their families will make our streets safer. Their leadership will create more transparent governments.
In 2039, when you’re vacationing in Europe and you mention you’re from Sacramento, you’ll get, “I hear great things. I’ve always wanted to go there.”