Tag Archives: cabaldon

Redevelopment agency appears finished


By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

West Sacramento’s redevelopment agency – one of the most frequently used tools in the city’s toolbox for promoting growth – will probably close up shop this year.

The California Supreme Court ruled last week that the state is within its rights to abolish local redevelopment agencies. Although the court ruled that a second part of the state’s plan – forcing the agencies to make optional “pay to play” payments for the right to continue to exist – was not legal, the ruling does not appear enough to keep the agencies in business.


Mayor Christopher Cabaldon told the News-Ledger this week that this city has been preparing for just this kind of decision – by trying to protect the local agency’s assets from “fire sale,” and by looking for new tools West Sacramento might use to fill the gap left behind by redevelopment.

“We have the good fortune related to other cities that we were already moving in this direction (when the court decision came out),” said Cabaldon. “99 percent of the other redevelopment agencies in the state are just now grappling with this, and saying ‘what now?’”

Governor Brown signed law shutting down redevelopment agencies as part of an effort to balance the state budget. Part of the law requires local agencies to sell off any property they own and distribute the proceeds to local government districts. That’s been scary for West Sacramento, said Cabaldon, because the local redevelopment agency owned almost 300 properties. Some of those are just small pieces of land, he said, but they might be earmarked for use, for example, in a future road project.

[adrotate group=”10″]   The city has been trying to do the best it can to protect its interests with these properties, he said. It has sold an “option to buy” 200 acres of land near Stone Lock to the Port of West Sacramento (which the city controls). That’s an attempt to keep the land from being sold at “fire sale.”

And it has tried to protect other pieces of real estate by transferring them or putting restrictions on their use.
“That way, even if the land is disposed of through a fire sale, it still has rules and covenants saying ‘this property has to be used for a certain public use.’”

Still, a speculator might pick up one of these properties when it’s sold, he said, and could be able to drive a hard bargain if the city needs to buy it back for a road project or similar public use.

Cabaldon appointed a commission – led by Councilman Chris Ledesma – to look for ways to promote development in the future, when redevelopment law is not available. The port may come in handy, he said.

“The port district has several powers and authorities that the redevelopment agencies have,” said Cabaldon. It can issue revenue bonds and assemble property parcels, he said, and “the mission of the port is fairly broad in terms of economic development – it’s not just about maritime commerce.”

The port can’t, though, fill the main hole left by redevelopment law – the ability to use expected future property taxes as collateral for big, up-front development work that makes way for growth.

“It can’t solve the basic issues of tax increment financing,” said the mayor.

State legislators have vowed to create new ways to let cities and counties pursue growth – but Cabaldon said isn’t optimistic that they’ll come up with anything as useful as a redevelopment agency.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Old dock retired; new one planned for public use

A contractor heads down the ramp to the old dock at Raley’s Landing, now being disassembled after being labeled a safety hazard. Pieces of the dock lay at right. In the background is Old Sacramento; this photo was taken behind the ‘ziggurat’ building on West Sacramento’s northern riverfront. In the background on the other side of the river are the Delta King steamboat, Old Sacramento and downtown Sacramento. (News-Ledger photo)



By Steve Marschke, News-Ledger Editor

The City of West Sacramento has hired a contractor to dismantle the old dock at Raley’s Landing – formerly home to the Elizabeth Louise paddlewheeler and to the now-defunct River Otter Taxi Service. The dock has been disused for several years, and has been deemed a safety hazard.

[adrotate group=”10″]     West Sacramento officials hope to replace the dock with one that will become a “public asset.” In that role, it may aid in the city’s transportation plan by providing a landing for a future Sacramento River ferry service and could be used by fishermen and sightseers, said City Councilman Mark Johannessen.

“I don’t know if we’ve seen the design yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some type of public access,” Johannessen told the News-Ledger.

The dock is located along the River Walk Parkway, just north of the Tower Bridge and behind the “ziggurat” building that now houses state offices. The replacement dock will probably be built in 2013, said a statement on the city’s website.

“Raley’s has been working with the City of West Sacramento to make the waterfront more accessible to the public and expand the River Walk amenities,” said Ashley Zepernick, a Raley’s corporate spokesperson, in the city’s statement. “In doing so, Raley’s has agreed to allow the City of West Sacramento to take control of the Raley’s Landing dock on the Sacramento River and allow it to be replaced by a new public facility that will be built by the City of West Sacramento.”

A state agency has ordered the old floating dock removed, fearing it could break up and float away, causing a river hazard. Work was already underway when a News-Ledger reporter visited this week.

The City has applied to the State Lands Commission for a new dock lease.

Nearby on the river, West Sacramento has been trying to attract financing to build a publicly-owned hotel with banquet and conference facilities. The dock was seen as a complementary amenity for the planned hotel, which Marriott had negotiated to manage. But financing has fallen through.

MARK JOHANNESSEN, West Sacramento City Council Member (News-Ledger file photo)

“The hotel project is still percolating – it’s not dead,” Johannessen told the News-Ledger. “I don’t think (the dock and hotel) are dependant on each other. As far as I know, the dock is going to be a public amenity on the river regardless of whether the hotel goes through or not.”

“This is one more step toward the City’s vision of making the riverfront an accessible and active destination for the public,” said Mayor Christopher Cabaldon in the City’s public statement.

Demolition work is being done by PBM Construction.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Tower Gateway ‘reborn’ as surface street

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NEWS-LEDGER — DEC 7, 2011 –

Information & photo courtesy of Art Schroeder, City of West Sacramento

During a morning ribbon-cutting last Wednesday, the City of West Sacramento marked the completion of the east phase construction of the Tower Bridge Gateway, converting the former State Route 275 into a city arterial. Located west of the Tower Bridge, the new street opens up the city’s entrance and creates new pedestrian-friendly connections in West Sacramento, as well as downtown Sacramento.

The official opening of the Tower Bridge Gateway East Phase was celebrated with a ribbon cutting at the corner of Tower Bridge Gateway and 3rd Street in West Sacramento. Pictured, left to right, Councilmember Mark Johannessen, Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) Executive Director Mike McKeever, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon (holding scissors), Councilmember Oscar Villegas, and Councilmember Chris Ledesma. Tower Bridge Gateway, a former state highway, now carries a 35 MPH speed limit from Jefferson Boulevard east to the Tower Bridge.


As a city street, Tower Bridge Gateway now limits traffic speed to 35 MPH. The street features wider sidewalks and narrower intersections and more defined bicycle and street car routes to reinforce the urban scale, mixed use character of the adjacent Washington and Bridge neighborhoods.

[adrotate group=”7″]   Reconstruction of Tower Bridge Gateway has long been a priority of the City and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), to make possible the development potential of the infill areas bordering the roadway and near Raley Field.

Tower Bridge Gateway was completed in two phases. The West Phase, including the Garden Street intersection, was completed in 2008, providing enhanced access to the City’s new Civic Center on West Capitol Avenue. The previous configuration of the old State Route 275 hampered investment in urban scale development, which is less dependent on automobiles.

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon makes remarks at the ribbon cutting for the new Tower Gateway

Providing two lanes of through-traffic in each direction, Tower Bridge Gateway has added two at-grade signalized intersections at 3rd Street and 5th Street along Tower Bridge Gateway. Six-foot wide bike lanes were also added to each side of Tower Bridge Gateway.

The project also accommodates conceptual plans for future streetcar movement between 3rd Street and 5th Street.

The funding sources for the Tower Bridge Gateway East Phase included a SACOG Community Design Grant, the state’s Proposition 1C Infill Infrastructure Grant, the Proposition 1B State-Local Partnership Program, the Community Facilities District 27-Bridge District Property Owners, and the West Sacramento Redevelopment Agency.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2011

Century-old pumps retired: new pumps for Southport

The new pump works: here it discharges into the shipping canal on the other side of the Southport levee (News-Ledger photos by ERIC HARDING, www.ebharding.com)


‘Old pumps played a role in keeping Southport living room floors dry for about a century’

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

A pair of drainage pumps in Southport that have been diligently working or on call for about a century have just been retired.

[adrotate group=”7″]   The City of West Sacramento and Reclamation District 900 on Nov. 18 celebrated the opening of a new pump station designed to help move water out of Southport and over the deep water channel levee whenever flooding threatens.

The old pumps were “pretty low tech,” said Ken Ruzich, manager of Reclamation District 900, which monitors a lot of the city’s levees and waterways. “They were similar to a hunk of metal that goes around in a circle. They’re not running on bearings, just bushings. They’re almost like a water wheel inside a casing.”

It was the job of those wheels to take water from Southport’s canal system when it got overloaded, and push the water over a levee into the deep water shipping canal that serves the port. The original pumps from 1911 were electric, although one was converted to diesel power in the 1950s.

RIBBON CUTTING for a new pump station designed to help about 90 percent of Southport to stay dry: William Denton, RD 900 President, holding scissors; Mayor Pro Tem Bill Kristoff; Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, holding scissors; Councilmember Oscar Villegas; Councilmember Chris Ledesma; Peter Palamidessi, RD 900 Vice President; Dan Ramos, RD 900 Board Member; and Bryan Turner, RD 900 Board Member (News-Ledger photo by ERIC HARDING, www.ebharding.com)

In 1980, the old pumps got some reinforcements.

“We put in three electric pumps right next to it, and they’ve been doing the bulk of the work,” Ruzich said. Even with the brand-new station, they continue to do so, he said.

“In a normal year, we will run them just to keep them lubricated,” said Ruzich. “They’re just for really big storms.”

And what would happen during some “really big storms” if the pumps weren’t around?

“In a bad year, since Southport’s pretty flat, you’d put several thousand acres under water,” he answered. “It might be only a foot or two, but that’s pretty inconvenient when it’s your living room.”

The pump station, as seen from the Main Drain canal in southwestern Southport. Behind it is the levee. (ERIC HARDING/News-Ledger)

[adrotate group=”9″]     The new pumps are diesel, served by a 5,000-gallon fuel tank on the site. The facility runs automatically most of the time. The Main Drain Pump Station is now capable of moving up to 150,000 gallons of water per minute out of southern West Sacramento.

“The fuel in the tank will last two to three years, with normal operations,” said Ruzich. The diesel pumps have the advantage of being able to work through a power failure.

And a nearby generator used at a city water storage facility can kick in to power the older electric pumps if they’re needed and the power is out, he said.

Do the new pumps work?

They haven’t yet been put to the test by rain or by a crack in a levee, but when they flipped the switch on Nov. 18 for local city council members and other dignitaries, the water indeed flowed out of Southport and into the canal.

Ruzich said the pump project cost about $12 million. It was a combined city/reclamation district project.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2011

Are there alternatives to redevelopment?

CHRIS LEDESMA, West Sacramento City Council Member (News-Ledger file photo)

From the NEWS-LEDGER — NOV 30, 2011 —

‘Governor Brown wants West Sac to ‘pay to play’: cost would be $6.5 million up front

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

A “blue ribbon commission” set up by Mayor Christopher Cabaldon is now looking at how West Sacramento can keep doing big things if it loses one of its favorite tools: the local redevelopment agency. The agency’s existence is currently threatened by the governor’s budget-balancing plan.

City Councilman Chris Ledesma is chairing the city blue ribbon commission – and he told the News-Ledger this week that there are some glimmers of hope coming out of his group’s research.

“You can’t minimize what the loss would be to the city,” Ledesma said. “It is a big deal. The agency has facilitated a lot of the things you see in West Sacramento today.”

The local redevelopment agency has helped build the Daniel C. Palamidessi Bridge on Lake Washington Boulevard (which in turn, helped enable development of Southport). It also  helped rebuild part of West Capitol Avenue and attract Raley Field and the ziggurat building, for example.

What if the agency goes away?

[adrotate group=”7″]   “There are still some tools out there and some opportunities out there – but it’s going to take a little more work,” said Ledesma, who manages a small business loan division for Wells Fargo bank.

At the moment, the fate of redevelopment agencies across the state is in limbo. Governor Jerry Brown has proposed to make each local agency either dissolve itself or pay a hefty fee to the state in order to stay in business.

“The price (for West Sacramento) to opt in is $6.5 million,” Ledesma commented. “Subsequent annual payments would be set at around $1.5 million. . . Personally, I don’t see us coming up with the $6.5 million, but that’s up to the entire council.”

Mayor Cabaldon has told the News-Ledger that the city just can’t afford it.

And if the city does scrape together the “pay to play” money from its recession-racked budget, Ledesma worries about future state budgets, and future unilateral state decisions.

“What’s to keep the state from raiding us again?”

[adrotate group=”4″]   The governor’s plan is now in front of the state supreme court, under a legal challenge. Local officials expect that Brown’s plan could either get tossed out, or modified, or upheld by the California justices. The court has fast-tracked the hearing and promised a decision next month.

What’s the problem with losing West Sacramento’s redevelopment agency?

One special power such an agency is the ability to sell bonds to pay for big-ticket infrastructure projects in much of the city. The agency can promise to pay back those bonds with some of the new property taxes expected to come in after this work is done and development is enabled. This piece of the new property tax pie in the future is called “property tax increment.” Redevelopment agencies can legally earmark the tax increment for certain local projects.

By fixing streets or sewers, or building bridges or doing other work, the redevelopment agency can spur growth – and then use that growth to pay for the work it did up front.

“The biggest thing you can do with a redevelopment agency is to use ‘tax increment’ financing,” said Ledesma.

But even if West Sacramento keeps its agency alive after January, packaging and selling those bonds may not be as easy as it was before the “Great Recession.”

“Even with our redevelopment agency, the bond market isn’t in great shape, and the financing may not be there anymore,” Ledesma commented. “We might have to learn to get along without tax increment financing anyway.”

So the work of this “blue ribbon commission” may come in handy whether West Sacramento still has a redevelopment agency next February or not, said Ledesma. Committee members are looking hard at other tools in use around the nation to facilitate expensive infrastructure and development projects. For example:

“Washington State doesn’t have redevelopment, but they have been able to get along with ‘community development corporations,’ which are nonprofit agencies.”

These independent agencies are set up in cooperation with local government, and they’re charged with helping to put together up-front financing to take care of obstacles to growth. They’re analogous to the West Sacramento Housing Development Corporation, set up to facilitate affordable housing in this city, said Ledesma.

If West Sacramento can’t or won’t keep its redevelopment agency alive after the state court’s ruling in January, there will be another kind of local fallout. The local agency will be forced to sell off all its various landholdings around town, quickly, regardless of real estate market conditions. The sell-off could include some properties earmarked for use in public roadway projects and so forth – and which may later have to be bought back. And the proceeds from what the mayor has termed a “fire sale” would have to be split among a number of regional agencies – instead of being returned to West Sacramento taxpayers.

The city council has tried to blunt some of the potential fallout from that scenario. For example, it has sold an “option to buy” the redevelopment agency’s Stone Lock District acreage near the barge canal to the Port of West Sacramento. The port is controlled by the city. By selling the “option,” the council presumably protected the property from state-ordered liquidation.

Ledesma said his group of public- and private-sector volunteers is winding up its research and will try to provide some guidance in a final report.

“We’re trying to provide a path for the city council,” he said.

One thing that surprised him a little bit as that the commission hasn’t found a lot of other cities or counties out there doing the same kind of exhaustive study.

“For whatever reason, a lot of redevelopment agencies are simply planning to (pay the state) and opt in. We’re one of the few in the state that’s looking at this so hard.”

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Copyright News-Ledger 2011

Shaping future of West Sac’s Washington neighborhood

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon shares the podium with Cynthia Abbott, a HUD Field Office Director, for public remarks about the Washington neighborhood on Monday at 3rd and C streets in West Sacramento (News-Ledger photo)

West Sac’s Washington District is now a
disparate mix of longtime residents, old houses, shiny townhouses, skyscrapers, and the homeless

NEWS-LEDGER — NOV 23, 2011 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

Officials from West Sacramento and the federal Housing & Urban Development Department (HUD) gathered at a street corner in the city’s Washington neighborhood on Monday to announce a $400,000 planning grant for Washington.

The federal money will help the city complete the “Washington District Plan for Sustainable Community Development,” described by city spokesperson Art Schroeder as “a major planning project that will result in improvements to the Washington area that encourage new transit-oriented development and improve conditions for existing residents.”

West Sacramento is contributing $350,000 to the planning project.

[adrotate group=”7″]  Cynthia Abbott, a HUD field office director, told the assembled crowd that competition for the $97 million in “Sustainable Communities Grants” was fierce, with only one in every eight applicants receiving funds. In California, only West Sacramento and the Sacramento County Housing Authority were grant winners.

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon’s public remarks included his note that a lot of planning projects, such as the one shaping the city’s “Bridge District” near Raley Field, are led by developers, and set their sights on land that’s uninhabited. Not so with Washington.

“This is a place where the people own it already,” said Cabaldon.

The Washington District is part of West Sacramento’s northeastern riverfront, near the I Street and Tower bridges. After its habitation by Native Americans, the area had a vibrant history beginning in the Gold Rush years.

“It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods in the Sacramento region, and in fact the oldest neighborhood in West Sacramento,” Cabaldon added. “It is an old neighborhood with a richness of diversity of community. . . but it has often been neglected for infrastructure.”

The new plan will “develop an authentic vision of what the neighborhood should be.”

HUD’s Abbott added that the planning project aims to “connect housing with jobs and provide transportation options for families.”

The plan may include streetcar access (the first phase of a Sacramento-West Sacramento route is in the planning stages) and replacement of the I Street Bridge with one that is friendly to bicycles and pedestrians headed to Sacramento.Now, the old bridge barely has room for two cars to cross past each other.

The Washington District comprises 194 acres and is “predominantly low income,” said a press statement from the city’s Art Schroeder.

The planning effort will look at “infrastructure deficiencies, transit service needs, regulatory barriers, infill development site opportunities, and neighborhood preservation concerns,” added Schroeder. The goal will be making Washington into “a vibrant, mixed-use, mixed-income community in support of the city’s overall vision for an active urban riverfront.”

Mayor Cabaldon vowed that the study won’t gather much dust when complete.
“At the end of the day, this project won’t just be a pretty plan with some nice things on it,” he told the small crowd of press and other interested people. “That’s not the West Sacramento way.”

The Washington neighborhood is one of the city’s most interesting mixes of old and new, promise and disappointment.

It’s built on a street grid dating to the 19th century. There are Victorian homes in various states of preservation, a couple of relatively new skyscrapers (the CalSTRS building and the ziggurat building), and plans for more tall shiny buildings.

[adrotate group=”9″]   There are projects in place that were built during the Great Depression: an old firehouse near 3rd and C is stamped with the letters “WPA” – signifying the Works Progress Administration, which was charged by FDR with building things and employing workers during the tough times of the 1930s. The Tower Bridge was also a “New Deal” project – a federal stimulus project of its time.

Washington also has shiny new urban townhouses fronted with retail space – but much of the space remains vacant in the midst of the worst economy since the Great Depression.

And there is a gritty element to Washington. A visitor who parked a block south of Monday’s press conference site walked past a small patch of grass littered with abandoned clothes and various unmentionables, probably left behind by a homeless person.

How will the neighborhood look in 20 or 30 years? Cabaldon and other local leaders hope the $400,000 planning grant will help decide that question.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2011

Life after redevelopment agencies?

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Mayor Christopher Cabaldon announced Friday that he is forming a special advisory team to look at how the city might accelerate community redevelopment efforts if its redevelopment agency is dismantled by new state laws.

Governor Brown has proposed eliminating local redevelopment agencies to help balance the state’s budget. Local governments will be able to keep their agencies functioning if they pay the state some hefty costs – a price which West Sacramento leaders say the city can’t afford.

The city is hoping that an outside lawsuit will be successful in thwarting the change to redevelopment law, but the new task force seems aimed at preparing for the worst case, from the mayor’s point of view.

“We have assembled some of the brightest, most creative, and accomplished experts to help scope proven and innovative strategies that West Sacramento can use to stay on the leading edge of economic prosperity,” said Cabaldon in a press release.

He named City Councilman Chris Ledesma as chair of the mostly-private sector group. Ledesman said “failure is not an option.”

Other team members include: Meg Arnold – Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance (SARTA), Grant Deary – NorCal Beverage, Jeffrey Dorso – Land Use Attorney, Pioneer Law Group, Catherine Dunwoody – Executive Director, CA Fuel Cell Partnership, Jack Ehnes – CEO, California State Teachers Retirement Systems, Mark Friedman – President, Fulcrum Property (Bridge District Developer), Lon S. Hatamiya – President and CEO of the Hatamiya Group; AgriVest Ventures, Barbara Hayes – Sacramento Area Trade and Commerce Organization (SACTO), James Morante/Clay Schmidt – PG&E, Donald Terry – Community Development, Wells Fargo Bank, Dr. J. Robert Fountain – Regional Economics Consultant, Denice Seals – CEO/President, West Sacramento Chamber of Commerce, Val Toppenberg – retired Redevelopment Agency Director, City of West Sacramento, and Bob Murphy – retired City Attorney, City of West Sacramento

[adrotate group=”9″]     The advisory team will meet over the next three to six months to study issues such as business retention and business recruitment. It will also look at strategies and mechanisms for community investment related projects that in the past have been mainly funded by tax-increment financing through the city redevelopment agency.

“We are disappointed and angry with the State’s egregious and short-sighted action to abolish redevelopment,” said Cabaldon in the press statement. “But our community expects West Sacramento to continue what we’ve started, so beginning this process now is important to being ahead of the curve and to remaining competitive.”

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