Sacto Seeks Riverfront Properties

Katy Grimes: More and more, we seem to be desensitized to the rights of individuals, versus the wants of many. Horrible examples of this are taking place everyday with the private property rights of individuals getting trampled on by local governments.

And now, the City of Sacramento is pursuing a push for better public access along the Sacramento River, despite the ownership of the property by homeowners.

In Sunday’s Sacramento Bee, the editorial board supported the acquisition of the property in its editorial, “Time is ripe for Pocket greenway.”  A Sacramento neighborhood referred to as The Pocket Area, butts up against the Sacramento River just south of downtown, with many of the homeowners enjoying riverfront property ownership.

Because others living in the area want access to this particular section of the river, and want to accomplish this by taking the property away, one way or another, from the owners – all of whom lawfully purchased the properties, and paid extra to live in that location – the city is going along with the wants of many, instead of the ownership rights of the owners.

According to the Bee, “Of the 179 parcels along the river in the Little Pocket and the Pocket, the city owns 45 and the state controls another five. That leaves 129 where the city would have to haggle with private property owners.” The city of Sacramento’s answer is to purchase the properties from the owners and create a greenbelt, ostensibly connecting all of the bicycle paths in and around Sacramento together.

However, the owners want to keep their properties private.

The Bee editors wrote, “It will not be easy and it could take years, but the sooner the city gets started, the better. The many benefits are well worth the effort: improved air quality if more people commute by bicycle, better health through increased recreational opportunities, and an enhanced feature that sets Sacramento apart.”

I live in the same city council district in a neighborhood close to the Little Pocket area, and share the city council member, Rob Fong. Fong supports using all of the bully power of the city to achieve the property acquisition. “District 4 council member Rob Fong, whose district includes the Little Pocket, says he would take the opposition head-on and make the case that the greenway is for the greater good. He says he’s even willing to use the city’s condemnation powers to obtain easements if necessary.”

Unfortunately, this statement of Fong’s is typical of his city council reign.

And now with veteran council member Robbie Waters leaving city council, the Bee reported that new council member  Darrell Fong is in agreement with Rob Fong. “Darrell Fong (no relation) takes the oath of office replacing Waters – and he says that the greenway is on his priority list and that he believes there could be some movement on the issue. ‘”A lot of people want access to the river,” he says. “I’m one of them.”‘

But there is plenty of access to the Sacramento River – public access – in several parks and marinas nearby.

There was a most telling comment left on the story by one reader: “I would also appreciate access to an uninterrupted bike trail along the river. However, there is a wonderful greenbelt bike trail through pocket now that actually offers a nice deviation from the riverfront. It connects the existing bike trail. A first, and much less expensive move, should be to help people understand and negotiate the greenbelt by adding signage and including it on bike trail maps.”

One can’t help but wonder what’s really going on in this situation with the city of Sacramento. But it appears they will have a big fight on their hands with the riverfront property owners. And they should.

As my editor Steve Greenhut recently wrote in State Court’s Clarity On Free Speech, there are several recent important property rights decisions in California. Somebody should forward this to City Councilman Rob Fong, who is an attorney, by the way.

NOV. 29, 2010

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