The road, the reality

In high school, one of my best friends lived in a pocket of pretty, tidy houses just south of Florin Road. On hot summer afternoons, we spent hours traversing this solidly working-class neighborhood by foot, browsing through the department stores at Florin Mall and hanging out at Tower Records.

Back then, the area felt vibrant, bustling with commerce—certainly, it seemed as though there was more happening on that strip than in my own sleepy College Greens neighborhood.

Fast-forward two decades, however, and the scene is decidedly different.

The pockets of pretty, tidy houses are still there, but these days, the stretch of Florin Road between Franklin Boulevard and Power Inn Road is largely populated with myriad corner markets, fast-food joints and auto-body shops. The now-defunct Tower franchise is long gone, and Florin Mall has been replaced by a hodgepodge of shops. As a whole, the area appears largely downtrodden.

And it is. With an annual median income less than $25,000—at least one in four families here live beneath the poverty level—this is one of Sacramento's most impoverished communities.

Still, that number hardly tells the whole story. The area is also one of Sacramento's most diverse, rich in tradition, culture and history—qualities that reporter Dave Kempa captures this week (see “Hustle and Florin,” SN&R Feature Story, page 15).

Here, Kempa gives voices to the area's residents, highlighting not just their troubles with poverty and crime, but also their efforts at improvement. It's a story of struggles past and present, but also one of opportunity and, enduringly, optimism.