Say no to sprawl

Jeff vonKaenel

We can probably all agree that Sacramento needs more housing and less traffic. We need to preserve our farmland and we need cleaner air. These goals cannot become a reality if we continue to build homes far away from jobs. Suburban housing developments only make traffic and air quality worse. Our community’s needs cannot be met with sprawl.

The solution is obvious. We need to build more infill housing and we need to build less of the housing that adds to long commutes and extends urban boundaries. And we will need to add more public transportation.

We need more McKinley Villages.

The controversial McKinley Village project nestles up to the Capital City Freeway on one side and East Sacramento on the other. When complete, it will transform an ugly piece of land into 336 homes. But the people living in these homes will drive or ride their bikes through East Sacramento neighborhoods to get to Midtown or downtown. According to traffic engineers’ estimates, we will see 350 extra cars during commute hours.

Infill development will almost always increase local traffic, at the same time as it decreases commuter traffic on our freeways. This anticipated increase in local traffic, among other concerns, led to lawsuit after lawsuit, delaying and adding significant costs to the McKinley Village project.

But now the model homes are ready. They are beautiful, ranging in size from 2,000 to 3,200 square feet and between $350,000 and $900,000 in price. Built on much smaller lots than older East Sacramento homes, McKinley Village homes will cost roughly $300 per square foot compared to $400 per square foot elsewhere in East Sacramento.

And what McKinley Village residents lose in yard space they gain in a spacious clubhouse, designed by Mogavero Architects, that includes barbecue pits, a gym, a wading pool and a six-lane, 25-yard swimming pool. I, for one, would gladly trade my lawn for the use of this clubhouse.

At the recent opening reception, former California State Treasurer and current president of Riverview Capital Investments Phil Angelides and co-developer Kevin Carson of The New Home Co. predicted that McKinley Village will become an important new neighborhood in Sacramento. I believe them.

In the future, people will speak of McKinley Village as they now speak of other cool neighborhoods in Sacramento such as Midtown, Land Park, East Sac, the Fab Forties or Woodlake.

I believe the project will be successful. But the decade-long process, where the East Sacramento Partnerships for a Livable City used every “Not In My Back Yard” tool possible to delay this project, sends the wrong message to developers.

And that message is that if someone with Phil Angelides’ political abilities, which are significant, combined with The New Home Co.’s reputation for doing high-quality developments, has this much trouble getting a project approved, is it worth attempting infill development? If each neighborhood fights new infill projects in their backyard, then we will continue to have more people without housing and more people on the freeway commuting from far-away homes most likely built on farmland.

If we want to reduce traffic and have cleaner air, we must make it easier to build infill development. Or we will find ourselves in a city that is not livable.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.