Downtown Sacramento, CA

Downtown Sacramento is a pretty dynamic place thanks to a strong residential base, the local Civic Center, the California Capitol Park, a distinct historic district called “the Kay”, an entertainment district building around Golden 1 Arena, and the quaint and vibrant Old Sacramento along the Sacramento River. I also like how Downtown flows pretty seamlessly to surrounding urban districts located in Central Sacramento. Its nice that the inner belt wasn’t built too tight around Downtown.

The future is also bright for Downtown Sacramento as Civic leaders as moving to continue to built up its residential base, and bring more and more entertainment and retail amenities. I also like the fact that Downtown has few surface parking lots thanks to California’s strong real estate market. But there are several key urban elements Dwtn needs before it becomes a premiere US dwtn. This includes walkable K-12 schools, a university presence dwtn, more amenities for children, better affordable housing options, a stronger civic plaza marking the heart of Dwtn, a better skyline, and missing cultural and retail amenities including more theaters & art galleries, a dwtn post office, and a supermarket.

Click here to view my Downtown Sacramento album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Very good density for a Dwtn district.
* Great ADA and sidewalk infrastructure.
* Pockets of attractive historic architecture (i.e. Old Sacramento and Cathedral Square).
* Decent public transit access within the City especially Central Sacramento. Hit or miss with the suburbs.
* Excellent system of dedicated bike lanes across the whole region. One of the best systems in the country. While there are no dedicated bike stations, Lime provides excellent bike and scooter options throughout most of the City of Sacramento. Not so much in the suburbs.
* Very connective dwtn. Some large 1-way streets but not terrible.
* Great racial and economic diversity residing Dwtn.
* A decent # of affordable hsg units Dwtn. This is certainly reflected by dwtn’s high poverty rate among residents.
* Good number of parks anchored by the State Capitol Park. Several small/medium sized parks spread throughout Dwtn and some nice plazas at Dwtn Commons.
* Solid Dwtn cultural amenities including plenty of restaurants, bars, and cafes, several live music venues, a cineplex, i-max, and historic movie house, a good array of museums, and couple historic homes.
* Regional amenities include a major convention center and an NBA arena and plenty of government office and courts thanks to being the state capitol.
* Dwtn has solid employment # hosting about 90K. Vacant rates also appear low, albeit these are pre-covid #s.
* Solid retail amenities as well including: a couple drug stores, a Macy’s; the DOCO Shopping Mall filled with tons of food & beverage stores, an urban outfitters, and several other retail outfits; tons of boutiques & gift shops in Old Sacramento; plenty of banks and dessert joins, a couple gyms & bookstores, a dwtn library, and several churches.
* Overall very good urban massing and good tree canopy for a dwtn.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Not my family households living dwtn but a fair amount of museums and the NBA to draw them into Dwtn.
* Really no K-12 schools within dwtn although a handful exist on the edges of dwtn.
* Certainly an expensive place to purchase a house but a decent # of moderately priced 1-bed condos selling btwn 300K-600K. 2-beds sell anywhere btwn 400K-1M, and a decent # of 3-beds selling anywhere btwn 500K-800K.
* Rentals are a similar story… studios lease in the 1Ks-mid 2Ks, 1-beds in the 2Ks, 2-beds in the 2k and low 3Ks, and 3-bed rentals are pretty rare.
* Several plazas could function as Dwtn civic plaza, but not clear and well programed heart of Sacramento.
* Skyline has some tall buildings but they are pretty bland and the skyline overall lacks cohesion and interest.
* Largely missing from Dwtn’s cultural & entertainment scene include art galleries, only a couple of theaters,
* Missing retail amenities include a supermarket, major dwtn post office.
* Dwtn is generally safe but large homeless population.
* Only a handful of small satellite colleges dwtn. Any colleges of size are at least a couple miles away.
* In-fill is a mixed bag. High rises are generally pretty bland but pretty good medium sized infill.

Southside Park- the Most Diverse Central Sacramento District

Historically Southside Park was Central City’s natural low spot and was subject to seasonal flooding. As such, development in Sacramento was at first confined to areas north of the R Street levee. But this changed with the construction of the levee at Y Street (now Broadway) opening up development south of R street starting in the late 1800s. The neighborhood welcomed those working in  nearby railyards, canneries, and lumber yards and those whose race (i.e. Portuguese, Japanese, Italians, Slavs, Africans) was not welcomed in more gentile parts of the City until the late 1960s.

This lower income/racially diverse legacy certainly carries over to the present day for Southside Park and Richmond Grove, but now as a strength as surrounding Central City districts are much less diverse and expensive. But like Central City Southside Park & Richmond Grove are solid mixed-use and walkable districts. With a density of only 7K per square mile, Southside Park could certainly use more housing and people. This would help support more retail and cultural amenities and hopefully provide more affordable housing. I’d also like to see more dense mixed-use buildings along the 15th & 16th street corridors. 

Click to view my Southside Park and Richmond Grove Albums on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Overall very good sidewalk and curb cut infrastructure but lots of curb cuts not up to ADA standards.
* Quality historic architecture overall. In-fill is more of a mixed bag. Most of it is good urban form but plenty bland 60s & 70s design and some autocentric in-fill as well.
* Very convenient access to Dwtn, great public transit access, and a very comfortable neighborhood for all transportation moods.
* Excellent racial and economic diversity.
* Several walkable schools within the district are nearby.
* Great tree canopy.
* Southside park anchors the Southside neighborhood and is the largest park in the Central Sacramento. There are several smaller parks on the district’s northern edge.
* Quality cultural amenities including many restaurants & bars, several cafes & art galleries, a handful of live music venues, 1 community theater, a couple local museums and convenient access to Dwtn’s cultural amenities.
* Retail amenities include a Safeway, a pharmacy, several boutiques, a couple banks, several florist and dessert shops, a couple book stores, several gyms and churches and the eclectic Ice House mixed-use space.
* Good urban massing but some autocentric spots along 15th & 16th Streets.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Density is pretty mediocre for an urban district.
* Very few households with kids but still some age diversity.
* Certainly an expensive place to purchase a house but a decent # of moderately priced 1-bed condos selling btwn 300K-600K. 2-beds sell anywhere btwn 400K-1M. 3 & 4 beds btwn 500K-1.1 M.
* Rentals are a similar story… studios lease in the 1Ks, 2-beds in the 1 & 2Ks, 2-beds in the 2 & 3Ks, and 3-beds anywhere from 3K-6K.
* Missing a public library and post office, and no department stores.
* Decent pedestrian activity but certainly less vibrant than other Central Sacramento districts.

Midtown- Sacramento’s Premiere Urban District

Midtown is another late 19th century central Sacramento neighborhood filled with lots of Victorian architecture. What elevates it above its neighbors is its strong mixed-use and destinational character. This is clearly Sacramento’s premiere urban district,  the center of Sacramento’s art, music, and cultural scene and home to many boutiques, bars, clubs, and dining options. Midtown also hosts the Lavender Heights subdistrict, Sacramento’s gay and lesbian district, located at K Street and 20th Street.

While Midtown is a solid urban neighborhood it still requires certain amenities to become a great urban district. That includes more walkable schools, more affordable housing options. greater density, and more retail amenities. Hopefully zoning restrictions can be relaxed somewhat to allow more housing to be built here. The demand to reside in Midtown is certainly present.

Click here to view my Midtown album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Sacramento’s densest district with nearly 11K per square mile.
* Great ADA and sidewalks infrastructure.
* Great access to Dwtn and great connectivity.
* Very walkable community and convenient among all modes of transportation.
* Good racial diversity.
* Lots of subsidized units available in Midtown.
* Good vibrancy, prob the most vibrant neighborhood in Sacramento.
* Convenient access to several nice small-medium sized parks and the California State Capitol Park is only a couple blocks west of the district’s boundaries.
* Overall very good tree canopy here.
* Midtown has a very high buzz locally in Sacramento.
* Quality architecture both historic and in-fill.
* Great cultural amenities include many restaurants, bars, & cafes, several art galleries, several live music venues & night clubs, a couple local theaters & smaller museums.
* Great retail amenities as well including a Safeway and Target Grocery store, many smaller grocerias, several drug stores, many boutiques, clothing stores, and consignment shops, a couple book stores & home good stores, several gyms and dessert shops, a major hospital, and several churches.
* Good urban form throughout. Lots of mixed-use streets especially along the western half of the district.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Ok economic diversity and poor generational diversity. Few family households here and mostly students and young professionals.
* Okay walkable access to schools. There is a catholic grad school in the neighborhood and decent access to a couple schools in adjacent districts.
* For sale hsg is expensive. Some moderately price 1 & 2 bed condos available for 400K-600K. Most 2 & 3 -bed condos and homes selling for anywhere btwn 700K-1.3M, 4-bed 800K-1.5 M.
* Rentals are more reasonable with studios leasing in the 1Ks, 1-beds leasing btwn the low 1Ks to high 2Ks, 2-beds in the 2K & 3Ks, and limited 3-bedroom product. Good rental availability overall.
* Missing retail include a public library, post office

Masion & Alkali Flats- One of Sacramento’s Oldest Districts

Alkali Flat is Sacramento’s oldest in-tact neighborhood (outside of Old Sacramento) with plenty of structures built between 1853 and 1869. At that time the most prominent of Sacramento’s elite lived here. By the 1920’s, the neighborhood was home to Irish immigrants and a growing number of Mexicans. The district was named after the white powdery substance that once coated the ground, a result of salt ocean tides that overflowed. Mansion Flats got its name from the Historic California Governors Mansion Located at 16th & H Streets.

By the 1950s both Mansion and Alkali Flats fell into disrepair. Alkali Flat and Mansion Flats was rezoned C-4 heavy commercial and many businesses moved in. The County of Sacramento also built many office buildings and  parking lots. Many Latinos moved here after being displaced by redevelopment efforts in the Capitol Corridor. Revitalization started in the 1970s with a strong concentration of historic preservation. Now the neighborhood is one of Sacramento’s best urban districts with good walkability, mixed-use streets along 12, 16th, and J Streets, convenient access to dwtn, great connectivity & public transit access, quality cultural amenities and retail amenities.

Like neighboring Boulevard Park, Mansion Flats needs more density and housing. Not only would this help meet some of the high demand for inner city housing, it could also be leveraged to create desperately needed affordable housing, and elevate the district’s urbanity. The neighborhood also needs more schools, bike lanes, family households and retail amenities. 

Click here to view my album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

  • Great connectivity and access to public transit.
  • Great access to Dwtn.
  • Excellent racial and economic diversity.
  • Good access to several small and medium sized parks but not convenient access to any larger parks.
  • Overall a safe community.
  • Quality ADA infrastructure and sidewalks.
  • Good # of attractive structures esp. in the more residential portion of the district away from Dwtn.
  • Modern in-fill is generally good but lots of tacky mid-century styles.
  • Pretty good urban form along 16th St, J St., and 12 St.
  • Good cultural amenities including a decent # of restaurants, bars, & cafes, a handful of art galleries, a couple performing arts theaters, a historic movie house, a handful of live music venues & night clubs, a couple museums, and convenient access to all the cultural amenities dwtn.
  • Retail amenities are decent including a Target & Grocery Store, a handful of consignment stores, several banks, a couple dessert joints, a local post office and walkable access to Macy’s, the DOCO Shopping Mall, and lots of other Dwtn retail amenities.”

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

  • Poor generational diversity largely due to limited households with children.
  • Decent but not great bike lane infrastructure
  • Okay walkable access to schools. A public elementary schools within Mansions and some in adjacent districts.
  • For sale hsg is expensive. Only a handful of moderately priced 2 bed condos selling for around 500K. Limited 1-bed condos available. Most 2 & 3 -bed condos and homes selling for anywhere btwn 500K-1M, 4-bed 800K-1.2 M.
  • Rentals are more reasonable with 1-beds leasing in the 1Ks, 2-beds around 1.5K-2.5, and 3-beds anywhere from 2.5K-5Ks.
  • Density is so with about 8,500 people per sq mile.
  • Missing retail amenities include a drug store, few gyms, no walkable hospitals, “

Boulevard Park- Hosting Sacramento’s Best Historic District

In this evaluation I included everywhere north of J Street to B street and btwn 16th Street and Highway 80.

The neighborhood was born out of the subdivision of Boulevard Park in 1905. This district was originally located on the old state fairgrounds and its racetrack. Fortunately the development of the neighborhood was early enough to produce a quality walkable district and Sacramento’s largest historic district. Most of the modern in-fill of Boulevard Park is quality urban development and the district is blessed with an attractive business district along J St and to a lesser extent along 16th Street. For a better district I’d like to see more density and mixed-use development tactfully inserted into the urban fabric as there is much demand to live here. There are also a limited number of walkable schools resulting in few households with children.

Click here to view my Boulevard Park Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Excellent access to dwtn and great connectivity.
* Great array of dedicated bike lanes and there appears to be sharable scooters and bikes in the Dwtn area.
* Overall quality walkable environment.
* Decent racial diversity.
* Nice array of small/medium parks in the evaluation area. Decent access to the expansive Sutter’s Landing but its not terribly walkable from the neighborhoods.
* Very good tree canopy here.
* Some bland bldgs and autocentric infill along 16th St. but generally quality architecture with good urban form; both historic and modern in-fill.
* Overall a very safe community.
* Great ADA infrastructure and sidewalks overall.
* Good cultural amenities including several restaurants, bars, & cafes, several theater venues, several theaters, a good # of live music and night club options, and pretty good access to the museums and sport arenas in Dwtn Sacramento.
* Retail options are good as well including many boutiques, several consignment stores, a couple home good stores, a Target w/ a grocery store, several fancy grocerias, a couple drug stores, a public library, a handful of dessert shops and gyms. Macy’s and large shopping center are only 1.5 miles away.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

“* Ok economic diversity and poor generational diversity. Few family households here and mostly students and young professionals.

  • Okay walkable access to schools. A couple of public elementary schools within Boulevard Park/New Park and some in adjacent districts.
  • For sale hsg is expensive. Only a handful of moderately priced 1 & 2 bed condos selling for around 500K. Limited 1-bed condos available. Most 2 & 3 -bed condos and homes selling for anywhere btwn 500K-1M, 4=bed 800K-1.5 M.
  • Rentals are more reasonable with 1-beds leasing in the 1Ks, 2-beds around 2K, and 3-beds in the 2Ks. Good abound of 1 & 2 bed product.
  • Only a handful of banks, no post office in the neighborhood”