Subsidizing A Broke Sacramento

Katy Grimes: Sacramento is living proof that the left hand doesn’t know what the other left hand is doing. Forget the right hand – there is no “right” in Sacramento.

Despite the city’s $60 million deficit, city officials and several members of the Sacramento City Council want to forge ahead with a new, large scale, “mixed-use” housing development project geared toward decreasing the size and eco-footprint of individual homes.

In plain English “mixed use” means building subsidized housing side-by-side with full price, non-subsidized housing, and usually located in sketchy parts of town.

This particular development, called Northwest Land Park, is a joint project with the Sacramento Planning Commission, the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment agency and developer representative Kevin Smith, a “spokesman for a Southern California investment company.” It is located in an old industrial wood processing plant next to the I-5 freeway, and near two old Section 8 subsidized housing projects, laden with crime, and blight.

City officials like trying to convince residents that it’s cool living in high crime areas, industrial wastelands, or above noisy bars and restaurants on busy streets – where land is cheap for developers.

“There are too many big houses on big lots, far from jobs and entertainment,” said Smith, in a story in the Sacramento Bee. Smith said that empty nesters and single women looking for a smaller carbon footprint, were his target market.

He left out all of the HUD applicants and “Housing Choice Voucher Program (previously known as Section 8)” applicants.

Rob Fong, the city councilman for the Land Park neighborhood has been unsuccessfully trying to muster up support to build a community center for the area, and now is pushing for federal grants to refurbish the housing projects.

And while Smith claims that his group is “checking in” with neighborhood community associations, Fong’s fingerprints are all over the Land Park Community Association, which used to be a vibrant, active and vocal group, particularly about neighborhood land use issues. Today, the association appears neutered, having gone through turnover, resignations and now, a lack of interest, communication and involvement. And many area residents blame Fong.

The Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA) website boldly advertises Section 8 housing availability, subsidized apartments, mortgage assisitance, and admits that SHRA “owns and manages more than 3,000 public housing units within the City and County of Sacramento. These housing units consist of a variety of apartments, duplexes and single family homes. Low-income families pay a portion of their income toward rent each month, based on their income.

The latest development area has had crime issues for decades. For any city official or developer to think that anyone will really walk, bike or jog in the area proves what a redevelopment money boondoggle this is, and is destined to become an insta-ghetto, as most other subsidized housing projects.

But because the area in question is already home to hundreds of low-income, subsidized housing units, who will really care if more low-income housing is built? The developer will make money, the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency will own more housing units, and councilman Fong can take credit.

The comments left on the Sac Bee online story also tell what a boondoggle this development is. “Really…why should those HUD welfare-queens get better FREE housing than the taxpaying citizens of the city? They steal and vandalize their ghetto-complexes and then are able to call up HUD, and ask for upgraded free repairs, all on the city’s dime,” one reader said about the existing Section 8 housing in the area.

What was left out of the Bee’s story is that redevelopment agencies were just eliminated statewide by Gov. Jerry Brown – and the same should happen to this project.

Many of the readers who left comments on the Bee story wanted to know how much redevelopment money the developer will be making.

And of course, Councilman Fong has been involved in several shaky deals including his weak involvement in the last round of arena negotiations. Area residents should question just what his involvement is in this latest redevelopment scam.

Fong, raised in Land Park and still a resident of the old, established neighborhood, is a politician  looking for a legacy, and apparently is willing to forever compromise his own neighborhood to do it. Maybe Fong can show his sincere support and move into the proposed development — next to the freeway, on the grounds of an old industrial plant, next to the ghetto.

When monkeys fly.

“A rail tunnel under the freeway will be transformed into a bike path, taking cyclists, joggers and walkers to Miller Park on the Sacramento River, with access to downtown, developers say. They may put cameras and viewing screens at each end, allowing a view of what’s happening at the other side before they enter the tunnel.”

If the city is trying to create a crime zone, this is how to do it.

With a glut of foreclosures in Sacramento, how can anyone at the city talk about a new development with a straight face?  This is another utopian flim-flam to justify the real intent – to find a new scam for redevelopment money.

After a state audit of 28 redevelopment agencies in California was conducted by State Controller John Chiang, a number of the redevelopment agencies were found guilty of serious abuses and gross mismanagement.

“Among those agencies studied by the Chiang audit and found guilty was the Sacramento Housing & Redevelopment Agency,” wrote Richard Trainor in an April CalWatchdog story. “Lashelle Dozier, the SHRA’s executive director, fired back at the report almost as soon as Brown announced his plan.”

“During these challenging economic times, Sacramento needs to have the tool of redevelopment always within reach to keep its economic engine from stalling out,” said Dozier, whose agency has 291 employees, a budget of $261 million and controls 3,144 units of public housing.

“Those opposed to the redevelopment agency closures are agency chiefs like Sacramento’s Dozier and San Francisco’s interim Mayor Ed Lee. Some critics of the plan also say that Brown’s policy change on redevelopment reeks of hypocrisy,” Trainor wrote.

But even with the exposure of the waste, fraud and abuses in redevelopment agencies, the scams continue.

The Northwest Land Park projects looks to be one such questionable development – and at a time when the city of Sacramento should be tightening its belt and going to work on the horrific blight that exists in other parts of town. Adding to the multitude of subsidized housing units available in Sacramento isn’t going to help Sacramento’s economy one bit.

It is interesting that this developer/investment company is from Southern California.  Perhaps even the local developers think this deal stinks.

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