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Elk Grove is Creating Something out of Nothing

Old Town Elk Grove has a long history, yet the area was neglected for years as the County coddled developers who plunked down housing tracts all over the area’s farmlands. That began to change when Elk Grove acquired local control by incorporating as of July 2000. It fell to the new City of Elk Grove to clean up the County’s mess. The young city’s initial focus was on a foundational revenue base for the city. New shopping centers went in, along with some office buildings. The auto mall was established. Old Town did not really feel the love until recent years, when the city began to emphasize civic life. Yet Elk Grove did not have a vibrant heart of the city. It was just a vast expanse of urban blah - kind of like Arden Arcade. There was, as Gertrude Stein once famously characterized Oakland, “No there there”. And so began the reinvention of Elk Grove’s Old Town. The city acquired land for Old Town Plaza in 2012 and undertook a redevelopment effort aimed at sprucing up the Old Town streetscape and providing a place for civic gatherings. The community was involved from the get-go and their input was heeded (yes, our experience here tells us that’s a weird concept, but it does happen in places not called unincorporated Sacramento County) such that the citizens are looking forward to the outcome - a major community gathering space. And they will have it fairly soon. The city recently awarded a contract for the second and third phases of the Old Town Plaza improvements project. That project will culminate in the Spring of 2021 with a performing arts space, a large covered market and event space and a number of other amenities.

This is something that cities do. Cities have Mayors and City Councils who are intent on making things better for the local people they serve. Arden Arcade can’t do this sort of thing because, instead of a Mayor and a City Council to focus on local priorities, we get our municipal services from a Board of Supervisors, only one member of which is elected to serve us. And the reality is that Arden Arcade represents less than 1/3 of that Supervisor’s constituency. We don’t have democracy here. Our local issues do not take priority and will not take priority as long as that situation persists. Elk Grove is making something out of nothing. Arden Arcade could do that, too, but there is a necessary first step if our community wants to do it - the acquisition of local control via municipal incorporation. Is it time to start making that happen or would it be in our best interests to just sit back and continue to watch what happens when we don’t have local control?

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The plan for Elk Grove’s Old Town Plaza is coming to fruition. Bids for Phase 2 and 3 of the project were let recently, with completion slated for 2021. For Phase 2 there will be a formal entrance to the plaza with public seating, bike parking, seat walls, lighting, landscaping and hardscape features. Phase 3 includes a large pavilion structure, additional site lighting, public seating, additional landscaping and hardscape features, and park signage.
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