Skip to main content

Lack of Vision on Howe Avenue, too

We've gotten quite a bit of feedback from our sad story about Country Club Plaza, the one wherein the Business Journal unwittingly exposed the County's beloved Economic Development program's inability to stop our community from circling the drain. Lo and behold, the Business Journal has done it again, this time in a story about the very large property on Howe Avenue where an old office building was torn down many moons ago. As you read this post, please understand we do not like saying the Emperor Has No Clothes. We would so much prefer pointing out how great, how cool, a development proposal is. It's depressing to always have to speak truth to power. Oh, well, here goes.

In its article today, (Ben van der Meer, "Entitled Howe Avenue hospital/retail development site on the market for sale", Sacramento Business Journal, 05/23/2023) the Business Journal reports that the site of the old office building on 1420 Howe is once again seeking to rise from the ashes. (BTW, we're not kidding about ashes, because our elves have observed homeless campers cooking over an open fire there.) The report says the property is "coming on the market with entitlements for a retail project and convalescent hospital after a previous project owner was foreclosed on". You see, back in 2017 the County, in its infinite wisdom, gave the then-owners permission to build 3 retail buildings, the smallest of which was permitted for {wait for it...} a drive-through! Sometime after that, the County OKed a convalescent hospital for the site as well. Three years after the project was blessed, the owner went bankrupt. The current owner - an investment firm from Irvine in Orange County - foreclosed on the property in 2021. That firm is now "working with" the County to get the entitlements extended for another 6 years. Let's take a guess at how that will end up. Our discouraging prediction: the County will fall over backwards to let a scheme that hasn't borne fruit for 6 years float along for another 6. Don't believe us? Go look at the old Saving Center building on Watt.

The property is being listed for $8.5 million, more than the $3.75 million it sold for in 2016, before the county approved the initial redevelopment plans.
Ben van der Meer in "Entitled Howe Avenue hospital/retail development site on the market for sale", Sacramento Business Journal, 05/23/2023. {Really? 6 acres of raw land on one of the region's busiest commercial corridors is now only worth what you can buy 6 or 8 nice houses for in Arden Park or Arden Oaks?}
May contain: land, nature, outdoors, plant, tree, ground, and road
1420 Howe Avenue is for sale. {Photo credit: Sacramento Business Journal}

The article quotes the commercial realtor listing the property as saying this about the site {w/ our take in italics}:

  • It's a great piece of development property, There are not a lot of properties like that on Howe Avenue. {Duh! There are not ANY flat, undeveloped 6 acre parcels available on Howe.}
  • It requires a seasoned developer from outside the region, possibly Southern California or out of state. {because they always know what's best for us?}
  • The client is not a developer, so the motivation is to sell rather than keep the property. {Our community is just a pawn in a money game.}

What can we glean from this story? If your strategy for local economic development is to turn the keys over to the marketplace, you get this kind of result. Free-market advocates are always eager to tell you about the invisible hand of the market, but they don't mention the market's invisible foot that kicks the public good to pieces. The last time the County adopted a plan for Arden Arcade was 43 years ago. A few things have changed since then, haven't they? If Arden Arcade had a Mayor and a City Council, they would be seriously embarassed to let 6 acres of important commercial corridor real estate at the center of a large, rapidly-growing metro area rot like 1420 Howe. They would probably be promoting a mid-rise mixed-use complex there with retail stores on the ground floor, offices and affordable apartments above them, and fancy offices and condos on the upper floors that could savor the views of the American River, fall color, sun rises, sunsets, Mount Diablo and the Sierras. They would have a vision, they would have long-term sustainability in mind. Ah, but you see, Arden Arcade is not a city. We don't have a Mayor and a City Council. We have good ole' Sac County. And the County has no vision for our community. What it has instead are entitlements, optimized for bygone days. How's that working for the County? How's it working for you?

Join our mailing list