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Growth without sprawl

One of the tall tales told about why an intensely urbanized area like Arden Arcade should never, ever, be a city is "there is no room to grow". Somehow, it is believed that the only viable cities are those with handy adjacent farmlands (greenfields) that can be converted to subdivisions. New subdivisions, you see, have new infrastructure--streets, drainage systems, sewers, and maybe even schools and playgrounds--and new taxpayers. But, please, pay no attention to downsides like unsustainability, costs to maintain infrastructure and provide services for years to come, remoteness, traffic congestion, loss of farmlands and open space, etc.

In the real world, however, there are plentiful examples of places where progress, population growth and economic expansion have occurred without sprawling subdivisions. San Francisco is the most obvious example, as it has been "fully built out" since the middle of the last century. Once regulations (and common sense) put an end to its habit of filling in the Bay, San Francisco grew upwards. But there are other places in California with "nowhere to expand" that have grown by transforming old industrial and commercial sites (brownfields) to take advantage of inherent amenities like location and views. Midtown Sacramento is going through such a Renaissance. So, too, is Oakland. Who would have thought that a former ironworks building next to the tracks with a commanding view of shipping containers would host an over-the-top $3M residence? Yet that's what today's SF Chronicle says was featured on a recent HGTV show.

Arden Arcade is a 1 or 2 story community. We are told that condos atop shopping centers are not practical here, even though such condos cost a pretty penny in Midtown or Downtown Sacramento. Despite successful mixed use projects elsewhere, developers tell us mixed use cannot happen here, and as this blog has often reported, the County seems to agree despite its policies to the contrary. Is it our fate to have to buy into constant underperformance? Do our developments have to be out of synch with what people want? Must ours be a community with no vision of what it could be, a place defined by others? Being in the middle of the metro area means our community is handy to everything. Some midrise offices and residences here and there could take advantage of local amenities like views of the American River, sunsets/sunrises, the Sierras, Mt. Diablo, and our tree canopy --whether leafy green in spring and summer or gloriously colored in the fall. The City of Oakland has proof of a sow's ear turned into a silk purse. Would Arden Arcade benefit from a similar kind of vision?

May contain: rail, railway, transportation, and train track
  his building at 737 2nd St. in Oakland has a $3M condo that was shown on HGTV -- check out the photos at:
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