Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ground Zero

In terms of cleaning up and making safe the most trash strewn and most dangerous area of the Parkway—the area known as the Lower Reach, from Discovery Park to Cal Expo, largely due to the long term and large scale illegal camping by the homeless which local leadership struggles to properly address—ground zero is North Sacramento.

Central to improving North Sacramento is improving Del Paso Boulevard, and with the recent move by the Sacramento News & Review to the Boulevard, and the refurbishing of a large building for its headquarters, that improvement has been moved along substantially.

I spent several years on the board of directors of the North Sacramento Chamber of Commerce—finishing six years of service in December—and their valiant work over decades continues, now with a significant ally.

An excerpt from the Sacramento News & Review story about their move.

“Stir together one part Mayberry, one part bohemian arts district and one part Skid Row, and you get something like Del Paso Boulevard. The stretch of old North Sacramento (or, as it is sometimes, hopefully, called, “Uptown”) is both a historic byway and an avant-garde experiment. Here you’ll find greasy spoons and vegan cafes, halfway houses around the corner from boutique hotels, and family business that have stuck it out on the boulevard for decades alongside hookers who have, too. Welcome to Sacramento’s eclectic main street.

“Newspaper reporters parachute into the neighborhood from time to time, to write stories about how the boulevard is making a comeback, or about how it was making a comeback but is backsliding. It’s all more complicated than that, of course.

“Since SN&R recently moved its offices to Del Paso Boulevard, it seemed like a good time to take a look at what’s going on in our new backyard. Yes, we found a neighborhood trying to shake off the effects of a bad economy and a bit of a bad reputation. But it’s also a place of surprising diversity, where people are trying new things, sometimes because that’s all they can do.

“It’s a very tenacious neighborhood,” said Kim Scott, a painter and one of the founders of SurrealEstates, an artists’ housing development just off the boulevard. During boom times and bad times, the area (roughly the stretch from Highway 160 to El Camino Avenue) has been a magnet for artists and others (like SN&R) escaping the downtown scene for one reason or another.

“It’s not just because it’s cheap. It’s because it’s interesting. It doesn’t yet have the Good Housekeeping seal of approval,” Scott explained. That’s what she likes about the neighborhood. She doesn’t like it when TV news reporters confuse the area with Del Paso Heights, and the fact that the neighborhood still doesn’t have a grocery store.

“This too will pass, said Dan Friedlander, a Del Paso developer, booster and dreamer who has invested heavily in some cool and quirky real-estate projects—like The Greens, a retro-chic hotel and art space that was once a cheap and somewhat notorious Arden Motel.

“Del Paso will be an amazing street someday,” Friedlander said. “We are halfway there.”