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Jane Jacobs, Punk Rock and Sacramento’s Urban History

In a three-part event on Saturday May 7, Preservation Sacramento, along with Black Lives Matter Sacramento and Confluence Tours, will be celebrating American-born author, journalist and activist, Jane Jacobs, and her influence on our own city of Sacramento.

The day-long event will include an educational morning walk on the history of Oak Park, an afternoon stroll on the homestead grid of Sacramento and will culminate with a Punk Rock Bike Ride focusing on the punk rock scene and its independent influence on Sacramento’s Midtown.

Jane Jacobs Walks have been organized throughout major cities in North America since her passing in 2006. Influenced by the struggles of gentrification in her neighborhood of Greenwich Village, New York City, Jacobs rose to fame after the publication of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” her most influential book published in 1961.

Jacobs fought to rise awareness against the faults in urban planning, which lead to the destruction and isolation of communities in the 50s. Still applicable to modern times, the issues Jacobs wrote about included how a neighborhood functions, mixed use, walkability, what makes a sidewalk safe and useful, old buildings, contemporary infield and the many issues that she had with the redevelopment of neighborhoods..

William Burg, Preservation Sacramento Board of Directors member and one of the Jane Jacobs tour leaders, was present during the first Jane Jacobs walks in Sacramento in 2010 and has dedicated a grand portion of his life to the preservation of history in Sacramento and educating others on the principles Jacobs believed in.

“The idea is we take those planning principles which are now very much part of modern urban planning and show people how they work in real life,” Burg said. “They’re part history walk, part urban planning walk, they’re part just opportunity to connect neighbors with each other and start a dialogue about who has the authority for how cities grow.”

Here is a breakdown of each of the Jane Jacobs Walk events and what makes each unique, according to Burg. All tours are free and open to the public. Starting points and times listed below.

Jane Jacobs Walk: Oak Park in Three Centuries

10am – 12pm, Old Soul at 40 Acres, 3434 Broadway. “[This walk focuses] on Downtown Oak Park along the Broadway corridor. That was Sacramento’s first suburb and it was a street car suburb so we’re looking at how neighborhoods are designed and built for the street car or the pedestrian versus how most modern neighborhoods, especially suburbs, are built around the automobile. We’ll also be talking about the neighborhood’s history, specifically within the context of how the neighborhood changed in the 1950s through the 70s.”

“Oak Park has an enormous history of activism and community engagement. They’ve been calling for better public safety and a healthier community for years and now it’s finally happening and the people who have been calling for it feel like they are no longer welcome.”

Jane Jacobs Walk: Homesteading the Grid

1 – 3pm, Crocker Park, 211 O Street. “We’re seeing a strong up-tick in central city population. Since 2010, 75 percent of all the new construction of all homes in Sacramento is all taking place in the central city grid, four square miles. There’s an enormous interest in this return to the center. The problem, and what a lot of people fear, is that in all this excitement and rejuvenation of downtown that the people who have been there, in many cases who were relegated to those neighborhoods half a century ago, are not being included in the conversation.”

Jane Jacobs Roll: Punk Rock Bike Ride

4 – 6pm, Crest Theater, 1013 K Street. “The idea [of the Punk Rock Bike Ride] is to show similarly the history of DIY independent music in Sacramento from the 70s to the early 90s. During that period, there was enormous amount of music, art, young people getting involved with their communities, and because they didn’t necessarily have any official support from the city or wider culture, they did it themselves. They started their own music venues, their own bands, their own labels, published books and magazines, released records and built a counter-cultural world. We’re going to visit the sites that were formal music venues, punk houses, semi-legal or blatantly illegal live music venues, book stores, records stores, cafes and other places of cultural collection.” – William Burg

If the question is can we have growth and welcome new people to the neighborhood without losing what makes it a special place, Burg believes the answer is yes.

“It has to be done with thought and it has to be done as part of a public dialogue and part of the Jane Jacobs walk is to have that dialogue and educate people,” Burg said. “We’re just going on and having a fun bike ride or having a nice walk and looking at these pretty buildings but we’re also talking and learning and sharing ideas.”

For those who would like to attend the bike ride, but may not own a bike, Burg recommends Practical Cycle on J street in Old Sacramento. Bikes are available as low as $5 per hour, or $25 for a full day.

For more information on the Jane Jacobs Walk, visit preservationsacramento.org. Or visit each event’s individual Facebook page: Oak Park in Three Centuries, Homesteading the Grid, and Punk Rock Bike Ride.

Photo by Bethany Harris


About the author

Cesar Alexander

Cesar Alexander is assistant editor for Sacramento Press. A native to California, he enjoys writing and discovering the varieties of art, live music, nature and everyday wonders the Sacramento region has to offer.

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