Category Archives: News

A short road trip to storied, Chinese-founded town in the Delta

Photo by Al Zagofsky

Photo by Al Zagofsky

NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 14, 2015

By Al Zagofsky
Correspondent

Just 30 miles south of West Sacramento is the last remaining rural Chinatown, an outpost remaining largely intact since its founding in 1915, and struggling to survive in its centennial year.

This unique historic property, described by the Locke Foundation as, “The only town in the United States built exclusively by Chinese Americans for the Chinese Americans,” and “inhabited almost exclusively by Chinese until recent years,” now faces a deteriorating infrastructure that has become repopulated by a 90 percent  non-Chinese citizenry.

A PLACE FOR GAMES OF CHANCE: Locke grew to a population of between 500 and 600 people with a main street full of businesses, some of which, like gambling and brothels, drew people from miles around. (Photo by Al Zagofsky)

A PLACE FOR GAMES OF CHANCE: Locke grew to a population of between 500 and 600 people with a main street full of businesses, some of which, like gambling and brothels, drew people from miles around.
(Photo by Al Zagofsky)

In 1971, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1990, the Locke Historic District of Walnut Grove was designated a National Historic Landmark. The  Boarding House at the entry to Locke is owned by the California Department of State Parks and has been turned into a museum.

Passage of the Swamp and Overflow Land Act in 1850 conveyed ownership of all swamp and overflow land, including Delta marshes, from the federal government to the state of California. Proceeds from the sale of swampland by the state were to go toward reclaiming the swamplands.

Contractors were hired to build levees along the Sacramento River to prevent flooding and allow the marshland to be trained for agriculture.

“In 1860, a contractor recruited  a few thousand Chinese men from the San Francisco area to build the Sacramento Delta levees,” according to Clarence Chu, a volunteer at the State Parks Boarding House Museum. “This became the Central Valley farmland.”

“For 20 years, it was all done by hand, by pushing wheelbarrows and hauling dirt.” The workers lived in tents as the levees progressed along the Sacramento River. Around 1880, mechanization replaced manual labor—the Chinese workers were no longer needed.

The Chinese school building is now a museum and open to the public free of charge. Currently two giant bronze busts commemorating Sun Yat-sen and Confucius sit before its entrance. (Photo by Al Zagofsky)

The Chinese school building is now a museum and open to the public free of charge. Currently two giant bronze busts commemorating Confucius and Sun Yat-sen sit before its entrance.
(Photo by Al Zagofsky)

Some of these workers remained behind, with many settling in Walnut Grove. Over the next generation, the children became merchants and professionals. But under the laws at the time, they were forbidden to own property.

After a fire destroyed the Chinese section of Walnut Grove in 1915, several Chinese merchants approached George Locke and negotiated an extended lease on 10 acres of his property. This became the town of Lockeport, later shortened to Locke. The land remained in private ownership until 2001, when it was purchased by the County of Sacramento.

The first thing that visitors to Locke notice is the State Parks’ Boarding House Museum. It was built in 1909 to board workers of the Southern Pacific Railroad and it thus predated the establishment of Locke. The boarding house was later purchased by the Kuramoto family, a Japanese family from Walnut Grove. They operated the boarding house from 1920 to 1942—when they were interned during World War II. They did not resume operation of the boarding house after the war.

“When the Kuramoto boarding house opened in 1915,  it attracted Chinese migrant farmworkers,” explained Clarence Chu. “There was a difference in the economic status between the new immigrants from China and the ones that had been here for at least a few years, some of whom owned restaurants; some of whom owned grocery stores.”

Locke grew to a population of between 500 and 600 people with a main street full of businesses, some of which, like gambling and brothels, drew people from miles around.

After the Depression and World War II, many of the children and grandchildren of the founders of Locke left the area. For the last half-century, many of the buildings have been in a state of disrepair.

But Locke’s charm has been rediscovered, and once again the buildings are being reclaimed as restaurants, museums and shops.

It’s definitely worth a trip to discover a unique example of both national history and the spirit of a town that’s working to preserve that history.

Teachers and parents can access a National Parks lesson on Locke at: http://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/Locke/locke.htm.

Driving directions:
Set a GPS to: 13916 Main St., Walnut Grove, CA 95690. From Sacramento, take I-5 South for about 20 minutes, and exit at Twin Cities Road. Follow Twin Cities Rd. and River Rd. to Key St. in Walnut Grove, about eight minutes, and look for sign for the Locke Historic District.Go one block past the boarding house and there is a parking lot on the left.

  Do you like what you see here?

  You can support local journalism, support this website, and see all the News-Ledger’s articles every week! Subscribe to the News-Ledger newspaper. It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, delivered to your mailbox.

  You can even try it for free for two months if you live in West Sacramento. Just send your name and mailing address to FreeTrial@news-ledger.com (offer open to new subscribers in West Sacramento ZIP codes 95691 & 95605).

Copyright News-Ledger 2015

Partners sell chunk of West Sacramento power retail center

NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 14, 2015

The Buzz Oates Group of Companies (BOGC) announced last month that it had sold the Riverpoint Marketplace in West Sacramento for an undisclosed amount of money to Excel Trust of San Diego.

According to the press statement, BOGC acquired the property in 1999. It was developed by BOGC and West Sacramento’s Ramco Enterprises (local developer Frank Ramos).

The current 900,000 square foot shopping center is anchored by IKEA, a Walmart Supercenter and Home Depot. It’s the fourth-largest retail center in the Sacramento region, following the Roseville Galleria, Arden Fair Mall and Sunrise Regional Mall.

Excel Trust bought 12 buildings totaling 134,000 square feet of the development – property not owned by the anchor tenants like IKEA. The sale includes buildings leased by Ross Dress for Less, America’s Tire, Petco, Sketchers, IHOP, Sleep Train, La-Z-Boy and a number of other retailers.

Before IKEA bought their own site and built their store in 2005-2006, three decades of development efforts included attempts to build an auto mall, office park, discount mall, furniture mall and an Indian casino.

Kevin Ramos, chief investment officer of BOGC, said in a press statement that development following IKEA’s opening was tough.

“We are very proud of our entire organization’s execution of a complicated project during a very challenging economic environment in 2008-2011,” said Ramos. “Our partnership took a significant risk, during a difficult economic period to say the least, and successfully delivered a project that will benefit our community for many years.”

Ramos said the project delivered $20 million in development fees, $1.25 million per year in property tax increment and over $2 million in annual sales tax revenue to the City of West Sacramento.

BOGC and Ramco have retained two retail pads at the site along I-80 and the 105,000 square foot Riverpoint Corporate Center building, which they report is 92 percent leased.

CORE Commercial in Sacramento represented the seller in the transaction.

  Do you like what you see here?

  You can support local journalism, support this website, and see all the News-Ledger’s articles every week! Subscribe to the News-Ledger newspaper. It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, delivered to your mailbox.

  You can even try it for free for two months if you live in West Sacramento. Just send your name and mailing address to FreeTrial@news-ledger.com (offer open to new subscribers in West Sacramento ZIP codes 95691 & 95605).

Copyright News-Ledger 2015

Feds & state again fund West Sacramento DUI checkpoint program

NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 7, 2015

West Sacramento’s police department announced last month that it will receive renewed funding for DUI checkpoints and other traffic enforcement.

The department has been awarded a $ 91,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) for a year-long program of special enforcements and public awareness efforts to prevent traffic related deaths and injuries, it reported.   West Sacramento Police Department will use the funding as part of the city’s ongoing commitment to keep our roadways safe and improve the quality of life through both enforcement and education.

“After falling dramatically between 2006 and 2010, the number of persons killed and injured in traffic collisions saw slight increases in 2011 and 2012,” said the W.S.P.D. statement. “Particularly worrisome are recent increases in pedestrian and motorcycle fatalities and the dangers of distracting technologies. This grant funding will provide opportunities to combat these and other devastating problems such as drunk and drugged driving and speeding.”

“California’s roadways are still among the safest in the nation,” said OTS Director Rhonda Craft in a press statement.  “But to meet future mobility, safety, and sustainability objectives, we must create safer roadways for all users.  The West Sacramento Police Department will be using these and other resources to reach the vision we all share – Toward zero deaths, every 1 counts.”

Activities that the grant will fund include:
•    DUI checkpoints
•    DUI saturation patrols
•    Motorcycle safety enforcement
•    Distracted driving enforcement
•    Seat belt and child safety seat enforcement
•    Speed, red light, and stop sign enforcement
•    Warrant service operations targeting multiple DUI offenders
•    Compilation of DUI “Hot Sheets,” identifying worst-of-the-worst DUI offenders
•    Specialized DUI and drugged driving training such as Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST), Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE), and Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE)

Funding for this program is from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Copyright News-Ledger 2015

Shooter in killing on West Capitol Avenue is denied parole

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 7, 2015

A man convicted in a shooting death in West Sacramento back in 2000 was denied parole last month.

The Yolo County District Attorney’s office reported that a panel of the state board of parole hearings denied parole for David Cree, 34.

Cree (then 20) and companion Jessie Lampkin were driving on West Capitol Avenue on Oct. 8, 2000, after a night of drinking, said the D.A.’s office. They drove past Jimmy Lee Richardson and Gregory Rowan, and Cree believed Richardson might have previously assaulted him.

Cree pulled the car over and asked “Where are the girls?”

Then he fired a sawed-off shotgun at the pair. Richardson died, and Rowan was seriously injured.

Cree was convicted of second-degree murder and other charges, and was sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison. Lampkin was also convicted of murder. His conviction was overturned although he later served time for manslaughter.

The parole board believed Cree’s release posed an “unreasonable risk” to the public. He’s eligible for another hearing in 2017, although he may request earlier hearing date.

Copyright News-Ledger 2015

Local ‘Knights’ chapter earns honor

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER –JAN 7, 2014 —

A West Sacramento fraternal group reports it won an honor for the 2013-2014 service year.

The Knights of Columbus Council #9469 were named  a “Star Council” chapter.

“The award recognizes overall excellence in areas of membership recruitment and retention, promotion of the fraternal insurance program, and sponsorship of service-oriented activities,” said the organization.

Knights of Columbus is a Catholic lay organization with 1.8 million members spread over 15,000 councils internationally.

Grand Night Glen Mochel, head of the local council, called the award “quite an honor for us.”

Copyright News-Ledger 2015

Hats: for ladies and domed reptiles —

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER –JAN 7, 2015 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

December 20 turned out to be “the best birthday ever!” reports Cindy Breninger of Southport.

That day, a sketch of her little tortoise in a handmade decorative “hat” was part of a front-page article in the Wall Street Journal. The article explored people who put holiday focus on their pets.

Shortly afterward, “Neil” the tortoise also made appearances on Fox 40 and Good Day Sacramento.

CINDY BRENINGER bought several copies of the Wall Street Journal from the Southport Starbucks after her business received a front-page mention on Dec. 20. A sketch of her tortoise, ‘Neil,’ appeared at the bottom of the page. (Photo by her son, Brandon Potts)

CINDY BRENINGER bought several copies of the Wall Street Journal from the Southport Starbucks after her business received a front-page mention on Dec. 20. A sketch of her tortoise, ‘Neil,’ appeared at the bottom of the page.
(Photo by her son, Brandon Potts)

Neil is a little guy, not even six inches in diameter.

“He’s kind of a smaller one,” said Breninger. “He’s around six years old, but you never really know with tortoises. We got him August 10, 2012. He’s named after Neil Armstrong (first man on the moon), who was my son’s hero.”

Breninger is a legal secretary at her day job, but a side-business helped give rise to Neil’s holiday hat.

Six-inch wide Neil the tortoise got his 15 minutes of fame last month, with TV and newspaper appearances. Here is he modeling a pair of New Year’s hats. (Courtesy of Cindy Breninger)

Six-inch wide Neil the tortoise got his 15 minutes of fame last month, with TV and newspaper appearances.
Here is he modeling a pair of New Year’s hats.
(Courtesy of Cindy Breninger)

“I have an ‘Etsy’ business,” said Breninger. “I make ‘fascinators,’ those mini top hats that ladies wear. Princess Kate wears a lot of ‘fascinators.’ So I put one on Neil.”

“Etsy” is a website that plays host to crafters who sell hand-made goods. Breninger sells her people hats and now her tortoise hats there at her online shop called “Deerwood Creek Gifts.” The shop name comes from Breninger’s childhood home on Deerwood Street in West Sacramento, which had a “sort of” creek behind it.

“One lady bought two hats for her tortoises – matching Santa hats!” said Breninger.

Has the local and national attention gone to Neil’s head at all?

“Maybe a little bit,” allowed Breninger.

  Do you like what you see here?

  You can support local journalism, support this website, and see all the News-Ledger’s articles every week! Subscribe to the News-Ledger newspaper. It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, delivered to your mailbox.

  You can even try it for free for two months if you live in West Sacramento. Just send your name and mailing address to FreeTrial@news-ledger.com (offer open to new subscribers in West Sacramento ZIP codes 95691 & 95605).

Copyright News-Ledger 2015

West Sac council okays new community — minus the gate

‘The Promenade’ is located in the Southport Business Park,  near Cooper Island Road and Bridgeway Island (From City of West Sacramento staff report)

‘The Promenade’ is located in the Southport Business Park, near Cooper Island Road and Bridgeway Island (From City of West Sacramento staff report)

NEWS-LEDGER — DEC 31, 2014 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

— A couple of larger issues — the desirability of gated communities and the density of local development — emerge during discussion of project  —

The West Sacramento city council has approved a 222-home subdivision in Southport. The project – which abuts Southport Parkway, the Bridgeway Island Subdivision and Savannah Parkway – was designed as a gated community, and approved last month in a 4-2 vote at the city planning commission.
Usually, that would be the last word for approval. But in this case, Mayor Christopher Cabaldon appealed that decision, calling it up to the city council for review. The council took it up on Dec. 17.
Gary Mandarich of Mandarich Developments told the council that his company was “expert” at projects like this one with high-density detached homes. The Southport project, called Promenade, is designed to put the 222 units onto 18.3 acres, with a homeowners association and a gym, pool and event room.
Mandarich used as an example his development of gated properties in other cities, which helped him reach a “higher profile” of buyer.
[adrotate banner=”37″]  “We went to the city and said ‘Look, when you are buttoned up against an arterial road, like Southport Parkway, you need gates. The consumers don’t want to go onto (their) roads and feel invaded by people with easy access. You put gates on it, it’s a beautiful project. . . The nature of our business is to build nice, boutique projects.”
(Comments cited in this article come from the city’s video feed of the council meeting.)
Mayor Cabaldon asked him if the project would be viable without gates. After a pause, Mandarich answered:
“We can have a project that is viable without gates. We don’t think it will be successful, but it could be viable.”

MAYOR CHRISTOPHER CABALDON is against having gated communities in West Sacramento  (News-Ledger file photo)

MAYOR CHRISTOPHER CABALDON is against having gated communities in West Sacramento
(News-Ledger file photo)

Cabaldon explained that gated communities are not in his vision of West Sacramento – although the city has one higher-end gated subdivision called The Rivers as well as a gated apartment complex and a gated cluster of homes on Bastone Court. Cabaldon said the city leaders essentially held their nose when approving the gate at the Rivers (which is open during the day to preserve public access to the river) back in 1996, when the project was known as Lighthouse. Said Cabaldon:
“There was widespread universal opposition in the community to the concept that a community which is full of neighborhoods which had been divided from one another repeatedly by the railroad tracks, by the freeway, and by the ship channel would voluntarily start to carve itself up, and this was offensive to the residents of West Sacramento.”
The council approved that gated community largely because it had inherited a development deal partly negotiated in advance by county officials, he recalled.
Mandarich, the Promenade developer, said that gating a community helped his target homeowners (such as single women raising children, and retirees) to feel safer.
Cabaldon said that whether gates improve safety is, at best, unclear in the research.
“These studies show that gated communities result in lower amounts of community participation, lower levels of community cohesion, a higher psychological sense of segregation – none of the things we are trying to accomplish,” said the mayor. “Personally, as I was in 1996, I am very opposed to the idea that we would approve gates.”
The city doesn’t currently have a formal policy about gated communities in the city.
Other opinions on the council varied as the five-member body deliberated about Promenade.

COUNCIL MEMBER BILL KRISTOFF prefers high-density single home project to a possible apartment complex (News-Ledger file photo)

COUNCIL MEMBER BILL KRISTOFF prefers high-density single home project to a possible apartment complex (News-Ledger file photo)

Council member Bill Kristoff liked the fact that the single-family project would take place instead of an apartment complex, which was what the zoning seemed to call for.
“I like the fact that it’s not an apartment complex,” he said. “I don’t have a problem if it is gated.”
Kristoff did worry about the smaller setbacks (the close distances between the homes and their neighbors) that was being proposed to accommodate the high-density housing.
Council member Beverly Sandeen worried that gating the project would be “about segregating and not having the open world that we love and cherish in West Sac.”
“I have been and will continue to be opposed to gating,” she said.
Council member Mark Johannessen called the design “a decent project for the city,” adding that he is “not really dead set against gating.”
Colleague Chris Ledesma said that you can have a high density project along a busy road – like the projects at Metro Place or Ironworks in West Sacramento – and it can work without a gate.
“What worries me about gated communities is the sense of segregation they do tend to breed, that somehow they are separate from the rest of the community and somehow they’re entitled,” said Ledesma.
Ledesma joined Johanessen and Cabaldon in worrying also about the precedent set by allowing this project to take a piece of land zoned for apartments and substitute a project with lower densities. They worried about “having to make it up later,” changing the zoning in other city properties in order to meet home-building commitments to the region and to the state, and in order to put enough people in the city’s “villages” to support community shopping and retail opportunities.
Kristoff seemed more defensive of low-density construction as a rule:
“One of the things I think we need to also remember is that if everything is high density, it is a slum, and it becomes one very quickly,” said Kristoff. “We have seen it built time and time again in other major cities. There needs to be that balance of higher density and lower density.”
Cabaldon rebutted that the reason you can ride a horse to the Target store in West Sacramento is because the high density developments that supported Target were built near the horse-owning properties.
The policy question about density was tabled for another day.
When Ledesma made a motion to support Promenade – but without a gate – the motion passed with a majority vote.   (Editor’s update: the final vote included a ‘no’ from Bill Kristoff and ‘ayes’ from the other four members of the council.)

  Do you like what you see here?

  You can support local journalism, support this website, and see all the News-Ledger’s articles every week! Subscribe to the News-Ledger newspaper. It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, delivered to your mailbox.

  You can even try it for free for two months if you live in West Sacramento. Just send your name and mailing address to FreeTrial@news-ledger.com (offer open to new subscribers in West Sacramento ZIP codes 95691 & 95605).

Copyright News-Ledger 2014