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Opinion: On the merits, McKinley Village deserves our support

Dave DeCamilla and Dick Sperbeck, long time residents of East Sacramento, co-authored the following article. 

In the next few months, the Sacramento City Council will consider McKinley Village, one of the most significant urban projects to be proposed within the region’s core in years. This 328-unit residential project is on a site long designated for urban development. In fact, it is already permitted for heavy industrial uses.

The project has been redesigned to be consistent with surrounding neighborhoods after many residents in our neighborhood objected to earlier, much more intense developments in this location. Given its central location in our metropolitan area and its compatibility with East Sacramento, McKinley Village will be a test of our city’s and region’s commitment to sensible infill development.

McKinley Village is a well-thought-out and well-planned addition to our urban fabric that should be approved by the city. It meets the standards of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments Sustainable Communities Strategy and is consistent with the city’s General Plan. It will reduce vehicle miles traveled because of its proximity to jobs, schools, shopping and restaurants. It will connect McKinley Park, Sutter’s Landing Park and the American River Parkway.

This new community will have the tree-lined streets just like our neighborhood, with front entries and porches on the street. There will be a recreation center that will offer indoor and outdoor spaces for community interaction, meetings and events; a neighborhood pool; and space for a local-serving retail use, such as a cafe, restaurant, or yoga studio.

McKinley Village will provide a needed boost to our economy. Its construction will create $207 million in economic output and 1,455 job years. Upon completion, the project will generate approximately $2 million annually in new property tax revenues.

The merits of McKinley Village are clear. It is ironic that this infill proposal has engendered so much discussion when, at the same time, thousands of residential units are being proposed and approved in the far-flung suburbs of our region. But, that is to be expected given the proximity of the project to existing neighborhoods and the legitimate questions and concerns that local residents may have.

Unfortunately, too many myths and misstatements of facts are being tossed around by some vocal opponents who appear to oppose any development on this property. Here are just a few examples to set the record straight:

Density – The density of McKinley Village is compatible with nearby neighborhoods, with a density between that of Midtown and McKinley Park. McKinley Village’s density is virtually identical to the neighborhood proposed on the Sutter Memorial Hospital site – 6.7 units per acre and 6.4 units per acre, respectively.

Traffic – Some opponents have made claims about significant traffic impacts. These assertions aren’t based on facts because the city’s traffic study is not completed. Let’s see what the analysis shows and then have a reasonable discussion about how to best handle whatever impacts there might be.

Environmental concerns –McKinley Village will be the subject of an extensive environmental review, yet some are jumping to conclusions now. For example, two project opponents recently made the untrue statement that there is venting of methane gas via a system of pipes on the site. When the draft environmental document is released, let’s review the facts and go from there.

Flooding – The McKinley Village site – like McKinley Park, East Sacramento, Midtown, Downtown and much of the Sacramento urban area – is protected by the American and Sacramento River levees. It has 100-year flood protection, and with no requirement for flood insurance. Although the railroad embankment is not a certified levee, the proposed 40th Street underpass and Alhambra Boulevard bike and pedestrian tunnel will be built with flood protection structures as an added precaution. This is the same condition that already exists at the railroad tracks and Folsom Boulevard, J Street, H Street, the new 7th Street extension into downtown, and the recently completed bike and pedestrian underpass at California State University, Sacramento.

Transportation – Some have argued that McKinley Village will prevent future potential transportation improvements like the widening of the Capital City Freeway or the potential to add a track for Capitol Corridor trains to Roseville. Caltrans already has sufficient right of way to expand the freeway to the four lanes currently under consideration and even to five lanes, although Caltrans recently indicated that building a fifth lane is not currently on the drawing board. And, the McKinley Village environmental impact report will examine the potential addition of the Capitol Corridor track.

Discussion and debate about McKinley Village is welcome, but the dialogue about how to best develop this site should be factual and civil. We need to encourage, not discourage, sensible infill development like McKinley Village. A good place to start is to wind down the blind antigrowth rhetoric and to instead encourage positive participation in the city’s planning and environmental process.

David DeCamilla and Dick Sperbeck are longtime residents of East Sacramento. DeCamilla is president of DeCamilla Capital Management and citizen chairman of the Sacramento City Employees’ Retirement System. Sperbeck is now retired, after serving for more than two decades as a teacher, athletic director and coach at Christian Brothers High School, and as executive director of the CSUS Athletic Foundation from 1980 to 1990. 

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