The new Oak Park

In the '80s I attended Sacramento High School, a public school located in the heart of Oak Park. Back then, the neighborhood was known as a rough part of town—a ghetto rife with crime and blight.

While I saw plenty evidence of such—ramshackle houses, prostitutes, not-so-covert gang activity—I also saw a different side to Sacramento's oldest suburb. Our high-school principal lived near the school and often talked fondly of her home and neighbors. Sometimes my friends and I took a walk at lunch, admiring the tidy mom-and-pop businesses and cute, well-maintained bungalows, rich with beautiful, historical architectural detail. We ate lunch at a nearby Chinese-food restaurant, bought junk food from the corner convenience mart, and sometimes skipped school to hang out and smoke cigarettes in front of the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. plant. It felt like home.

Decades later, Oak Park still encompasses a complicated identity, perhaps even more so as gentrification encroaches. Writer Lovelle Harris chronicles its ongoing transformation in this week's Feature Story (“Oak Park's new kicks,” page 14).

Harris reports on the impact of The Broadway Triangle, a multimillion-dollar housing and retail project, currently under construction at 35th Street and Broadway. And a new watering hole, the Oak Park Brewing Company, will soon open nearby. The area also boasts a popular, independent cafe and, from spring through fall, a bustling farmers market.

It's an exciting time, but one that also raises questions, not just about safety, but also about affordability and whether such changes will actually help the neighborhood shake its sketchy reputation.

I'm eager to see how Oak Park evolves. A place so rich in history deserves significant economic progress, while its longtime residents deserve a neighborhood that still feels like home.