How Sacramento leaders almost rejected affordable housing


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Some of Sacramento’s most caustic NIMBYisms reside in Woodlake, a single-family enclave in northern Sacramento that is home to rhetoric so toxic the city council nearly fell for this and almost allowed the incomprehensible agenda of District 2 Councilman Sean Loloee.

A narrow majority of council narrowly approved some paperwork last week so a housing nonprofit could apply for a $5.7 million grant and build a project without needing city money. After a truly mind-boggling public debate over whether an affordable housing development would “destroy a community,” Loloee, the troll of the night, wondered aloud if Sacramento “turned into a semi-dictatorship in the name of affordability”.

The California Department of General Services is razing two buildings on an acre of surplus state land on the former armory site near Del Paso Boulevard and Arden Way, vacant for decades. They are building 124 apartments, a daycare and retail space one light rail stop minutes from the Amtrak station and downtown. The impetus was an executive order from Governor Gavin Newsom, an authority far beyond the clutches of regressive local actors.

That wasn’t going to stop Loloee from doing her best to derail everything. Between that project and an unnecessarily contentious municipal lease for a preschool that serves single mothers, he spent months stoking tension in Woodlake.

Loloee has breathed life into a subset of North Sacramento residents who are understandably scarred by decades of disinvestment and neglect that they vehemently oppose any form of government intrusion – even though it may actually help. the people. The worst actors are a group of neighborhood association members and district activists, eponymous “All Eyes on Deck D2”, who congregate in various Facebook groups where the neighborhood mingle with misinformation.

They once made a horror movie trailer to express their outrage at the region’s tax-funded business district. When the city recently entered into a year-long lease with Single Mom Strong to provide clubhouse space for a preschool, a meme with four smiling kids raising their hands started making the rounds.


The most sanitized strains of NIMBYism come from the Woodlake Neighborhood Association, whose members produce flyers laced with tropes and misinformation. A flyer encouraging residents to attend a community meeting last summer for a 75-unit affordable housing project on Del Paso Boulevard called it a “targeted millennial development” that risked turning Southgate Road into a thoroughfare because was connected to the post office. The association rhetorically asked “what kind of store” people wanted in the retail space below the apartments, questioningly questioning whether “traffic, vape, medical marijuana, 7-11 , alcohol” would be more likely than “café, restaurant, dentist.”

Volunteers of America, developers of the 1212 Village project, face a $7 million funding shortfall. Despite all the necessary approvals, the project site remains vacant as a symbol of the kind of support Loloee provides when it, in fact, has the authority.

Loloee told me late last year that if “I think it makes sense – yes, absolutely, I’m going to fight and see if we can close this gap”. But he also tried to be coy and said he “didn’t know what that amount was,” even though it was common knowledge in his district, among several local agencies, and even other council members that VOA needed a $7 million share. of the city housing trust.

So while Loloee has stalled behind the scenes of an affordable project, he has spent much of his 18 months in office stirring up hysteria over the development of the state armory, baselessly claiming that its density would destroy Woodlake. During a meeting with the neighborhood association in March, he repeatedly misrepresented the number of units, parking spaces and income requirements.

During one of the more comedic exchanges of last week’s council discussion, Loloee put your head in your hands before asking BRIDGE Housing project manager Jon McCall if he would be willing to cut 100 units.

McCall was stunned and silent. “I don’t know exactly how to respond,” he said.

“If you know it’s going to destroy the community, are you going to lower the units?” repeated Loloee.

“I guess we’re going to have to kind of unpack the term ‘destroy the community,'” McCall replied.

Residents of Loloee and Woodlake have repeatedly highlighted their support for affordable housing, but not on this site or at this scale. Their pleas for sympathy, coupled with the same concerns that have underpinned California’s housing crisis for five decades, are a carbon copy of the lines being rolled out in Sacramento’s wealthier neighborhoods. Regardless of the region, people who own homes nearby will always brandish criticism of the project to mask their unwitting opposition to any affordable apartment that can help a low-income household.

Despite everything Sacramento is facing right now, council members Angelique Ashby, Jeff Harris and Mai Vang fell in love with this factless crusade and nearly sabotaged a quality affordable housing project.

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Yousef Baig is The Bee’s Associate Opinion Editor and covers a variety of local and state issues for the Editorial Board. He previously worked at The Press Democrat, Petaluma Argus-Courier and Napa Valley Register. He is the eldest son of Pakistani immigrants, originally from Atlanta and proud alumnus of the University of Georgia.

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