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Old Sacramento residents form neighborhood association

Joe Gamble lead the push to form a resident’s association in Old Sacramento.

Old Sacramento is a tourist gem where history and entertainment collide. But resident Joe Gamble, 33, felt he and other residents had faded into the background.

“I noticed after about six to eight months of living here everything around here is tailored to meet the needs of the visitors,” he said. “There’s no consideration for people living here for special occasions when it came to noise. After I started poking around, people said that’s the way things are. That was it.”

Living in Old Sac for two and a half years, Gamble assembled a group of five residents in December to form a neighborhood association. They spoke when they saw each other on the boardwalk, but after the fatal New Year’s Eve shooting, Gamble sped up his efforts to formally put together an association to give residents of the vintage buildings a bigger voice in the neighborhood.

After the shooting, Councilman Steve Hansen and Sacramento Police Captain Kevin Bernard, the area commander, paid the community a visit at the first meeting at Steamers Bakery & Café. Once the residents came together, they realized there was no tangible outlet for them to communicate between one another.

“You see them constantly going and coming. You see them on the boardwalk. It’s sort of a quasi-community that keeps in touch, but there was no association as a larger voice,” said resident Scott Brozek.

The Old Sacramento Business Association, which oversees the commercial success within the historical district, supports the newly developed neighborhood association.

“Our interests are very much shared by the people who live in the district as well, which also includes some of the business owners and employees,” said executive director Christopher McSwain.

When Old Sacramento was redeveloped in the 1960s to become the first historic district in the West, around 5,000 residents, many migrant and railroad workers and their families, were  displaced, according to local historian William Burg.

“Old Sacramento is a park. It’s a park,” Burg said. “When they built Old Sacramento, they kicked all the people out.”

In 1983, the Clarendon House unveiled its apartment units, and other buildings like the iLofts and the Orleans opened in recent years. Around 300 residents live in Old Sacramento, Gamble said.

Police officers regularly patrol the streets to stop unrest like the occasional bar fight. Dimmed halogen lights brighten in the dark when someone walks near the parking garage. So security seemed to be under control, but parking was a common issue resonating with residents.

With special occasions like the Sacramento Music Festival, streets in Old Sacramento could be closed for up to four days to those who don’t purchase event tickets, making it difficult for residents to maneuver in and out of the area.

Residents can’t park their cars in front of their buildings to unload things or they’ll be at risk for a parking ticket. There’s no free residential parking; only parking garages and street spots designed for tourists to pay a daily rate that could run up to almost $30 per day. Some residents pay the monthly rate at the two garages, some pay to park on the street.

“If you live here, you can’t go to the laundromat or go grocery shopping because you wouldn’t be close enough to your place to put things there,” Gamble said. “We’re not looking for a special permit, but we want reasonable access for after hours and on weekends.”

The association wants residential permit parking since Old Sacramento is one of the only downtown neighborhoods to not have the system in place. In order for residents to receive a free permit to park their vehicles within a two-black radius of their address, neighborhood officials will have to participate in a series of meetings with the Parking Services Division Traffic Investigator before the system can be approve, Gamble said. 

Residents and business owners now communicate through the association’s Facebook group and email blasts.They have completed a draft of the organization’s bylaws, and members are currently reviewing them for ratification and preparing paperwork for the city.

“I don’t own a business,” Gamble said. “When the businesses close and the owners go home, and the visitors are gone, we’re still here. I think we play a really important part that the city needs to recognize.”

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