Housing Advocates Push Arena Project to More For the Community

AffordableHousingLate last week, a group calling themselves Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity filed a Petition for Writ of Mandate asking the court to address the legal adequacy of the City’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the arena project.

The group sent out a release, “While the Coalition supports the good jobs created by the project, it has concerns about potentially negative impacts, which include the displacement of low-income residents due to higher rent and the closure of the Marshall Hotel, increased traffic, potential threats to public safety and more competition for small businesses.”

They add, “This decision to file came after numerous attempts to negotiate a comprehensive Community Benefits Agreement to ensure that the Arena’s impacts to the environment and community were fully mitigated and Sacramento residents obtained meaningful mitigation in exchange for their invested tax dollars in the project.”

“We are disappointed to have to take this matter to court, but our attempts to have discussions with the Kings ownership group and the City of Sacramento have largely been overlooked and ignored. We remain committed to monitoring the current and potential impacts of the Arena’s construction and operation that low-income Sacramentans face, and we vow to do our very best to defend their environment and quality of life by pushing for affordable homes, equitable transportation options and public safety measures,” said Sacramento Housing Alliance Executive Director Darryl Rutherford.

Don Mooney, a Davis attorney who represents the Coalition, explained what the Coalition seeks to accomplish by filing a Petition for a Writ of Mandate: “In filing this action today, we are asking the Court to direct the City to rescind approval of the EIR on the grounds that it fails to meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).”

The coalition believes, “The Arena project falls short of CEQA requirements because the EIR failed to disclose, analyze or mitigate impacts to local street traffic, air quality and climate change. It also failed to address the EIR’s inconsistency with the City of Sacramento’s Housing Element. These findings have revealed that the Arena plan would disproportionately impact the health and safety of low-income residents.”

Headed by the Sacramento Housing Alliance (SHA), the Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) and the Capital Region Organizing Project (CROP), the Coalition has identified numerous Community Benefits Agreements achieved by developers and residents in cities throughout the state and nation.

“Without such an agreement, Sacramento would be the only major city to be without benefits tied to a development of this type,” the group argues. “The Coalition’s proposed community benefits include a $40 million contribution to the Housing Trust Fund in order to accommodate low-wage workers whose jobs will be created by the Arena and ancillary developments’ construction.”

California Reinvestment Coalition Executive Director Paulina Gonzalez commented on the need for affordable homes as part of a Community Benefits Agreement: “Cities across the country have negotiated comprehensive Community Benefits Agreements that include tens of millions of dollars in affordable housing funds to address the displacement of local low income residents by development projects. The proposed new Kings arena is paid for in part by tax payer dollars and Sacramento should settle for no less for its residents.”

However, Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton argues that housing advocates are putting their greed on display. He writes, “Principled, albeit misguided, opposition to the downtown arena has been replaced by people with outstretched hands in search of cash – lots of it. They want millions of dollars and are going about it in a time-tested way in our state – by using the California Environmental Quality Act as cover for a shakedown.”

He argues, “It’s the city of Sacramento that will have to pay out of its general fund to defend this CEQA suit and another that was recently filed. Eventually, the Kings will reimburse the city for these costs. But the initial outlay of legal fees – and all the city staff time diverted away from working on affordable housing projects to prepare for the case – will be borne by the city.”

“Sacramento is already on the hook for as much as $750,000 in general fund money to defend a different suit that alleges fraud in the Kings arena deal. Because that suit was filed before the city and the Kings formalized the arena deal, Sacramento has to spend nearly $1 million in legal fees with no Kings reimbursement.”

Mr. Breton writes, “The housing advocates suing the city under CEQA should be ashamed for other reasons. The downtown core of Sacramento already represents the greatest concentration of affordable housing in the entire region.”

He continues, “As recently as 2006, the city of Sacramento produced more affordable housing than any other jurisdiction in the state. In what is known as the central business district of Sacramento – from the Sacramento River to 16thStreet and from H Street to L Street – there are 1,524 housing units, according to the city. A whopping 77 percent of those units are designated affordable housing, while only 23 percent are market rate, according to city figures.”

Mr. Breton continues, “The Kings have committed to contributing $863,760 to the City Housing Trust Fund, monies used to assist the financing of new affordable housing projects for working people. The Kings will pay the $863,760 once the arena is done. But that contribution will grow to $2 million once the Kings complete ancillary development around the arena.”

He adds, “The money in the City Housing Trust Fund is used for people with very low or low incomes. Very low is defined as 50 percent of the area median income, and low is 80 percent, city officials said.”

“In other words, the city already has a ton of housing that’s below market rate and available to working, low-income people and very-low-income people,” he writes. “In other words, the Kings are already poised to make a substantial contribution to a long-held city policy that Sacramento is committed to providing housing for people of all incomes.”

“In other words, to provide true diversity in housing in Sacramento’s downtown core, what is needed is not more affordable housing. What is needed is more market-rate housing and higher-end housing,” Mr. Breton argues, “It’s poised to happen, and when it does no one should believe the myth that Sacramento doesn’t support affordable housing.”

The Coalition’s proposed benefits encourage public transit, minimize traffic congestion and increase travel affordability. When asked why these measures were important, ECOS Board Member Alex Kelter answered, “The arena should truly be carbon neutral. The EIR does not show how this carbon neutrality will be achieved. Just because cars are getting cleaner, that by itself doesn’t make the arena carbon neutral. There have to be more incentives for transit, such as using event tickets as RT and Yolobus passes. RT and Yolobus need to expand their service, and that would be a worthwhile investment for the city and the Kings, and would help achieve carbon neutrality.”

When asked to explain the bigger picture of the impacts of the Arena, SHA Housing Advocacy and Organizing Director Tamie Dramer said, “The new Kings Arena will fundamentally change the character of Downtown Sacramento for the benefit of very few of the region’s residents. For over a year, the Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity has been trying to negotiate on behalf of the current residents with the Kings ownership to ensure that any benefit of the new Arena be shared with those whose lives will be impacted the most. Rather than negotiating, they are taking a Manifest Destiny approach to the Arena development in which the concerns and development plans of the original population and local businesses do not matter. But they do matter!”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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21 Comments

  1. Barack Palin

    “Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity”…………….LOL, what will they come up with next?

    ATT Park, back then called PacBell, took an old dilapidated section of S.F. and turned it into an updated thriving go to destination in the City.

    1. Tia Will

      BP

      “ATT Park, back then called PacBell, took an old dilapidated section of S.F. and turned it into an updated thriving go to destination in the City.”

      And when this occurred, what happened to the low income people that had previously been occupying the “dilapidated section” of the city ?

      The question for me is not whether upgrades to blighted areas are desirable but whether or not adequate provision is made for those who are being displaced. Do we know that the Kings promise of $ 863,760 is adequate to cover the displacement costs ? If not, how much is provision for this population going to cost the city ? This would be a non issue if taxpayer money were not being spent to help defray the cost of the new development.
      However here you have a situation where it may well be the case that the taxes from some of these low paid workers will be being used to displace them from one of the few areas in Sacramento that they can afford.

      I fail to find anything at all amusing about taxing low end workers in order to displace them from their homes even if we do not find those homes aesthetically pleasing.

        1. Tia Will

          BP

          That is not what I said. And you have decided not to address the question that I asked. Maybe you don’t know the answer. Fair enough. Then why not just say so, or direct to me sites where I could find the information.

      1. South of Davis

        Tia wrote:

        > what happened to the low income people that had previously
        > been occupying the “dilapidated section” of the city ?

        Other than a dozen or so homeless no one “lived” where Pac Bell park was built. I was working in SF when it was announced that they were going to build the stadium. One day the paper had a map of exactly where it was going to be built so we drove down to check it out. Walking around the “ruins” of what was left of the former building on the actual stadium site I’m guessing that about a dozen homeless were living there. The other side of King Street was all industrial. MoMo’s used to be a print shop and the building next to that had a “sweat shop” with over 100 young Asian women working on sewing machines.

        The article also says that SF is “spending about $458,000 per DAY to house and help homeless people”

        http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/matier-ross/article/S-F-spending-on-homeless-exceeds-many-5416839.php

        In SF they spend $167 MILLION a year to help the homeless (just about the total spending for the city of Davis). Nearly half of the homeless money, $81.5 million, goes for rent subsidies and programs to assist people living in “permanent supportive housing”.

        A vacant lot (or a run down building used as a sweatshop) does not pay much in taxes and SF would not have the money it does to help the poor without re-development.

        1. Barack Palin

          My son used to play hockey in what is now an ATT parking lot. That whole area was one big sheeethole until the stadium was built. One of the best things to ever happen to SF.

          1. Frankly

            I know of at least two previously homeless people that got jobs at the park. Don’t ask me how, it is a long story.

        2. DavisBurns

          If 167 million is being spent to house the homeless, it is not all coming from the city of San Francisco. It is coming from an assortment of players including the city, HUD, and numerous other players. It is like in tangling a large ball of string. For you free market types for whom capitalism is good but betting on a sure thing is better, every private player who takes part in providing those housing units makes a tidy profit. The poor may get to sleep inside but the other players make actual money. I really think affordable housing is a lucrative field. Is like to know of anyone who has lost money being a player– not the government entities who provide the “incentives” but the private side of the public private partnership.

      2. Frankly

        Tia my friend, I will give you this… you are persistent and relentless. Really… you are going to make a case that developing Pac Bell park was a mistake? Your are going to make a case that we should have, what, secured it as a place where homeless people could hand out? Seriously?

        Did you visit that area before and after the park was built? Can you really not see the benefits to humanity resulting from the change?

        I get the sense that you just don’t like commercial enterprise that requires buildings and parking. You do know that a hospital requires a building and a parking lot and roads and employees. Damn Kaiser has built on a lot of pristine land that should be reclaimed as natural habitat and for homeless camps.

        I am kidding of course.

        I think this one was not a good one for you to challenge. The cost-benefit is so far on the benefit side that it does not make any sense to challenge it. If fact, I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say anything negative about the decision to develop Pac Bell Park on that old decrepit industrial space.

        1. Tia Will

          Framkly

          “Really… you are going to make a case that developing Pac Bell park was a mistake? Your are going to make a case that we should have, what, secured it as a place where homeless people could hand out? Seriously?”

          So you post a bunch of things that I never said or implied and then ask “seriously” ? This makes me think that it is you who are not serious.
          I am not familiar with the history of the Pac Bell site and so asked questions about it. South of Davis took me at my own word that I did not know what had happened to any involved people and answered me seriously. Isn’t that how a conversation is so supposed to go ?

          “I am kidding of course.”

          So how much of your comment was “kidding”. The first paragraph ? The second?
          Only the bits about hospitals ? I was not making a challenge, I was making an enquiry.

          I also am not challenging the decision in Sacramento. It is others that are doing so.
          I do not know the demographics of the area. For those who are proponents for either the development or for the position of the Coalition for Shared Prosperity,
          what I would like to see layer out is the number of people who will be displaced, if any and what the plans are for them. If it were to turn out to be a dozen or so homeless then perhaps that planned donation by the Kings would be enough to provide for them initially. If the numbers are higher, maybe not so much so.
          All I am asking for is the relevant information. I fail to see why a request for information would draw to much push back.

  2. Tia Will

    BP

    ““Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity”…………….LOL, what will they come up with next?

    Perhaps adequate housing for those who will be displaced ?

  3. Davis Progressive

    i think everyone is missing a key point here – we are always wanting the developers to get us more, produce community value. in this case, the developers are making huge amounts of money off the public dime, why are we lamenting that low income people not benefit from this?

        1. Davis Progressive

          the suit only argues that the arena project should deal with the displacement of low income people caused by the project. why do you read that as a benefit for exclusively low income people?

          1. Davis Progressive

            but my question was if they are the ones displaced, why would others have claims?

  4. ruralknight

    Let’s get a few facts straight. First, the Kings are not contributing $864k – it’s not a pledge – it’s not anything out of good will. It’s a legal requirement based on City of Sacramento Ordinance – it’s a commercial linkage fee. Basically, when commercial development is going to create a certain number of low wage earning jobs, they also need to be sure to those individuals have an affordable, safe, healthy, place to call home. It’s a growing trend in local gov’t especially with the loss of redevelopment. If we’re lucky, we’ll see 8 homes built with that money.

    In order to revitalize a blighted community we need to ensure that it’s healthy & sustainable. Those economies that withered the crisis over the last 1/2 decade, are those that are equitable and sustainable. Everyone deserves a safe, decent, healthy, accessible, affordable place to call home. Since the Kings are tying up $250+ million and will greatly benefit financially from this public subsidy – we believe they too should ensure the whole community benefits from the development – not just a select few wealthy individuals. Plus, there’s not empirical data that supports the notion that a sports arena is an anchor for successful downtown revitalization. The Kings would be wise to minimize the displacement of small businesses (the mom and pop shops who drive our local economies), of lower income residents who disproportionately, spend more of their income in the local economy than the wealthy (in fact, the cost of a ticket is for most downtown residents is the cost of one week of groceries).

    And let’s not forget the impacts on the environment. Traffic congestion downtown will greatly increase – what’s wrong with asking the Kings to have event tickets act as a regional transit day pass. We also need to make sure that housing for all income levels are included in a downtown revitalization plan so as to minimize the adverse effects of this drive ‘till you qualify” housing pattern that threatens the open space, habitat and agriculture in the region surrounding the City of Sacramento.

    Affordable housing advocates have had to defend the development of affordable housing from NIMBY’s (Not In My Back Yard) who have used CEQA to stall, derail or push affordable housing out of their community. We’re just taking a page out of the playbook from everyone else who has used CEQA against us…doesn’t feel good does it. And yes, our lawsuit is purely CEQA related with the majority of our asks as mediation to the inadequacies of the approved EIR. The arena falls short of CEQA requirements and we argue that the EIR fails to:
    a. Disclose, analyze or mitigate impacts to local street traffic, air quality and climate change.
    b. It also fails to address the EIR’s inconsistency with the City of Sacramento’s Housing Element
    c. Their findings have revealed that the Arena plan would disproportionately impact he health and safety of low-income residents.

    We don’t need to settle this in court, we can settle this through good faith negotiations which we have yet to have. Sure we have had “discussions” but they haven’t led anywhere – every time, they ask us to come back with more data, assumptions, etc. as to why they should consider what we’re asking for. We finally put the ball into their court (pun intended) and asked they do something in good faith to avoid us having to file. The Kings and City could have avoided this – our last effort was to get them to formally agree to at least one of our “asks” and publicly agree to continue to work with us in the coming months to negotiate out all the other asks. We gave them until the night prior to the deadline to file but they refused to even speak with us until after the lawsuit was filed. So CEQA suit was our last piece of leverage and we had to do what was right for the community who has mostly been left out of these discussions. We are a coalition of concerned residents, nonprofits, grassroots orgs, & labor interests.

    We could go on and on here…bottom line is, the City is more interested in building a playground for the privileged rather than ensure a more equitable distribution of limited public funds! If they want to continue to take this to the court of public opinion, bring it on!

    Franklin D Roosevelt wisely said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little”.

  5. Tia Will

    ruralknight

    Thanks for another perspective on this issue. I was clearly unaware of the source of the $846k.
    I will be interested to hear the responses to your post since I obviously know very little about this issue.

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