|Is Elk Grove going to be subjected to more blight as the city pushes more fringe development?|
While having long-term plans are necessary for any entity, the health of that entity ultimately comes down to what those long-term plans focus on. For Elk Grove, the question we need to ask and answer is how our city wants to spend its limited resources - on attracting a professional soccer team, building a sports complex or strengthening our important and seemingly neglected neighborhoods. .
Recently a local law enforcement professional was asked about the high number of arrests made by Elk Grove Police along the Elk Grove-Florin Road corridor between Elk Grove High and north toward Bond Road. That professional acknowledged this area receives extra law enforcement focus for a variety of differing reasons.
Looking at a map of this area, roughly Elk Grove-Florin Road to the east, Highway 99 to the west, Bond Road to the north and Elk Grove Blvd to the south, shows it to be almost in the geographic center of Elk Grove. Not surprisingly, exclusive of the Old Town area, it is also one of the oldest areas of Elk Grove.
Coming out of the recession and the still on-going foreclosure crisis, this area had its share of foreclosures. Because the area generally has the lowest cost houses in the city, when those foreclosed homes go to sale, they are very attractive to “investors.”
Investor of course is just another word for landlords. Although it is difficult to say exactly who these investors are, unlike the typical mom and pop landlords, large real estate organizations are increasingly becoming more active “investors” of these distressed properties.
Although antidotal, there seems to be some trends developing in this area.
A professional colleague recently commented to EGN that as a long time resident of that area, he has seen an alarming number of previously owner-occupied houses become rental units owned by out of state investors. With that, in his estimation the quality of the neighborhood is declining.
As if to reinforce our colleague’s expressed concerns, three people were victims of an armed robbery late Saturday morning on Sharkey Ave. This street lies in this particular quadrant and the street name might be familiar as it is where the Elk Grove Senior Center is located.
The three victims were aged 19, 20 and 33 and presumed to all be healthy. Can you imagine how easily thugs could prey on a couple seniors walking along Sharkey?
Of course Elk Grove’s most recent murder that is believed to be a drug-deal-gone-bad, occurred on Elk Grove-Florin Road.
Not coincidentally while one of the older less tony neighborhoods at the geographic of Elk Grove is undergoing unflattering and unwelcome changes, city leaders are pushing their plans for a sports complex, aquatics center or pro soccer team stadium at – you guessed it – the outer fringes of our city. Elk Grove is sadly becoming a microcosm of the larger metropolitan centers though out the country that has continually pressed more and more fringe development while neglecting the city center.
We all know how this has worked out for those numerous cities. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Instead of pushing plans for a soccer stadium, the long term focus and expenditure of limited taxpayer dollars needs to be placed on strengthening our most at-risk neighborhoods. What you may ask can be done?
To start with, we need ensure that now and in the future we have the money needed for law enforcement. And by enforcement, we don’t need to focus on patrols per se, but explore other policing methods.
Our chief and his staff appear to be a resourceful group and they should be charged with implementing methods that not only ensure safety in vulnerable areas, but work to bridge gaps that exist in the community. Ramp up more of the coffee with cops meetings in the community or maybe put some officers on bicycle units or even walk beats in at-risk neighborhoods.
Maybe we can focus on continued code enforcement, particularly for rental units owned by absentee landlords. Make them feel the heat if their properties are not maintained.
And perhaps the biggest thing the city can do to secure and revitalize, or at least maintain the city’s core, is to drop the unnecessary sphere of influence application that seeks to annex approximately 14 square miles on you guessed it – the current outer fringes of Elk Grove.
If we look at the core currently, we have already seen the closing of the original Bel Air store on Elk Grove Blvd. This doesn’t even include several still vacant unoccupied shopping centers.
In May of 2008 we reported on the then unoccupied strip center called The Harbour Pointe. At the a time we wrote that this center, which was completed in September of 2007 had only one tenant that quickly went out of business, was at-great risk because of the impending completion in 2009 of the Elk Grove Promenade.
Of course just two months after this story was posted construction of the Elk Grove Promenade came to an abrupt halt. Construction has not restarted on the Promenade and Harbour Pointe still has a 100 percent vacancy rate.
And yet, there is an almost fetish-like need for the city to push through on annexing these 14 square miles. For what purpose – to line elected officials pockets with campaign contributions from real estate developers and trade unions just salivating to build more at the expense of the city’s core not to mention all the under-water home owners who are struggling for some glimmer of hope from the city they call home.
So as the city plods through with their grandiose plans for pro soccer stadiums or annexation of 14 square miles under the guise of bringing jobs to the community, they ought to keep this is mind – what legitimate business that either locates or hires for much needed high-paying jobs in this community, short of another “incentive,” is going to take a bite of an apple that is rotting at its core?