Greenlight: A new library is coming to North Sacramento

Photograph by Dollar Gill
Jeff vonKaenel

On Tuesday July 27th, the Sacramento City Council approved a purchase of the 19,000 square foot Sacramento News & Review building, slated to become the new and vastly improved North Sacramento Hagginwood Library at 1124 Del Paso Boulevard. The seller was the vonKaenel-Redmond Revocable Trust 2007.

I am the vonKaenel of the trust and my wife Deborah Redmond, who has been my far more capable partner for 44 years, is the Redmond.

When asked by reporters about the sale of our building and the removal of our newsstands from the streets of Sacramento, I said it was a “triple win.” It was a win for the online News & Review, which is now more sustainable without having to shoulder the expenses of a 19,000 square foot empty building. It was a win for the North Sacramento community, which will go from having perhaps the worst Sacramento library facility to having one of the best Sacramento library facilities. It was a win for the city of Sacramento that has been able to finally find a location for a library that has been slated for an upgrade for decades.

This is all true. But it is also bittersweet. The sale of the building and the ongoing process of removing our newsstands from the streets entails accepting that the 31-year-old printed version of the Sacramento News & Review is not coming back.

Ever since Facebook and Google swallowed up local advertising dollars, supporting a newspaper has been difficult. But in March 2020, when COVID shut down our advertisers and our distribution locations, this was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. The PPP loan allowed us to continue printing monthly in Sacramento between July and December 2020 but when the second COVID wave hit it became clear that we could not sustain a printed product any longer. We had to figure out what our role would be providing arts and news coverage online, and we began building a collaboration with other local news organizations in the same situation as us. But this story is not about us. It’s about a building, and a Library. 

At the risk of sounding like a parent who thinks their baby is the cutest baby in the whole entire world, our building at 1124 Del Paso Boulevard is special. Very special. Its gestation period was certainly longer than that of our two children (who did happen to be the cutest babies of all time).

Having outgrown our leased space at 20th and J Streets in 2007, we were looking for a new location when we were contacted by then-Sacramento City Council member Sandy Sheedy. She wanted us to move into a long-vacant former supermarket in North Sacramento, which she believed was key for the revitalization of that community.

The building was bigger than we needed, and it was going to take a lot of work. It was a perfect opportunity to design a green building on a budget, where we could create a wonderful working space for our employees. And the building would reflect our personal values. In addition to being environmentally green, we designed all the offices to be the same size.

With the help of Jim Parks and Jim Barnett at SMUD, and Mark Wright of Sunseri Associates, we included many cool building features such as skylights and solar tubes that brought natural light into the building, insulation made from the cotton waste generated by a blue jean factory, a whole building fan that blew cool night air through the building at night, dual flush toilets and a waterless urinal, low-water use landscaping outside and trees and plants from Exotic Plants inside our building to help keep the air clean. Yup. It was one cute baby.

After COVID hit in the spring of 2020, Del Paso Business Improvement District Executive Director Raef Porter asked if we would be interested in renting out some of our vacant space to the library. A new library for North Sacramento had been on the library’s master plan for decades and they had not been able to find a location that was financially viable.

Having Sacramento Public Library director Rivkah Sass and her team tour our building with joyful eyes and smiles behind masks as they visualized our building becoming a library was a such a special day. Rivkah told me that finding a new home for the Hagginwood library would be one of the greatest achievements of her already very esteemed career.

Winston Churchill once famously said “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” This is true. Our building was designed with a love for our employees, and now the library staff will remodel it with a love for their patrons. It will show.

In the near future, the library will be putting up a new sign on our building. Perhaps it will be called the Rivkah Sass Library, given her tremendous contribution to our library system.

By upgrading this library, the City of Sacramento will be sending a proud, loud and clear message to the people of North Sacramento. This message will be in every book, every skylight, and every recycled glass countertop. It says to this neighborhood that “You matter. We care about you. We believe in you. We build this library with love for you.”

This project has been a community-wide effort in which many people played a part. Sacramento City Council member Sean Loloee who helped take this proposal to the finish line; City Council member Angelique Ashby, who worked tirelessly for years on this project; Mayor Darrell Steinberg who has led community development efforts throughout the city; the City Staff who worked behind the scenes to plan and evaluate multiple options for this project; Del Paso Boulevard Partnership Executive Director Daniel Savala and Friends of Sacramento Public Library long-time supporter Pat Sayer-Handley who built up community support; our Realtor Mike Riley; and of course many others.

I look forward to seeing you at the new Library!

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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.

7 Comments on "Greenlight: A new library is coming to North Sacramento"

  1. It’s happy news about the Library, but it’s so completely sad about the end of the print paper. There was nothing I liked to read more while out at one of our great brewpubs. I’ve been reading the SNR since I moved to the area in 2002, and it led me to discover so many great things over the years.

    Gonna be selling those newsstands? I could use a souvenir

  2. Andy Wasserman | July 29, 2021 at 6:42 pm | Reply

    It is unfortunate that there is no longer a print edition of the paper. I will continue to read the digital edition. Congratulations on selling the building to the city. The library is the perfect reuse of the building. Del Paso has needed a full size library. The new Hagginwood branch should be one of the nicest in the system. I can’t wait until it opens.

  3. Esther Huston | July 29, 2021 at 9:17 pm | Reply

    What a great idea! SNR is not leaving Sacramento–just taking on a new “image”/reading material in a new format. Congratulations to all involved!

  4. Brenda Washington Davis | July 30, 2021 at 10:29 am | Reply

    Really will miss getting the physical papers, but what a great win for the library and the neighborhood!
    Thanks to all involved.

  5. Karen Solberg | July 31, 2021 at 3:29 pm | Reply

    I cannot believe any building in North Sac is worth 3 million dollars, something smells here. Only deep pocketsCity would pay that much. And Ashby helped? Is this penance for having voted to put a pot parlor directly in front of a 100 year old church that serves the poor and minorities? No other church in the ENTIRE state has suffered this ignominy, something SNR refused to report. I expect this post to be deleted.

  6. Rayven Reid-Murray | August 5, 2021 at 7:35 am | Reply

    A very bittersweet story.

    I have a lot of newspaper memories, from counting out copies of my high school’s monthly issues, to grabbing a “dead tree” copy of SNR on my Sac RT commute every Thursday. Sign of the times that electricity and pocket-sized computers do everything.

    Looking forward to libraries doing their thing, and the evolution of this great publication! Could tell you really loved the workspace.

  7. Jeff von Kaenel | August 10, 2021 at 11:54 am | Reply

    Karen,

    I appreciate you taking the time to post a comment to my column even if it is negative.

    In 2009 we paid $3 million for the purchase and upgrade of this 1124 Del Paso Boulevard building, so now the City is purchasing it for about the same cost, even though in the last twelve years there has been appreciation of both land and building, and construction costs are higher now as well.

    I’d be happy to give you a tour of our building so you can see for yourself how it will make a great Library for North Sacramento.

    Jeff

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