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Neighborhood association nervous as Aggie Square project moves forward

UC Davis Chancellor Gary May celebrated the Sacramento City Council's decision saying that Aggie Square would bring innovation to the region.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento City Council voted 7-2 to move forward with Aggie Square's creation in the Oak Park and Tahoe Parks areas. 

Aggie Square is scheduled to break ground in 2021. The project could bring up to 10,000 jobs, between the construction and the economic growth, resulting from the UC Davis expansion, according to city officials.  

After settling a lawsuit filed by the Sacramento Investment Without Displacement group just minutes before Tuesday’s city council meeting, plans for Aggie Square got the green light from the council, despite receiving a letter from multiple neighborhood associations asking to delay the vote for two weeks. 

"Basically, they decided to ignore us," Rose Cabral, President of the Tahoe Park Neighborhood Association said.

Cabral says she’s concerned about things like traffic, parking and locals getting priced out of the market. 

"We’re hearing it happen every single day, people are telling their renters, hey I’m going to sell this house because I can make a bunch of money off of it so that’s what I’m going to do so what we really need are policies," she said. 

Sacramento Mayor Pro Tem filed a motion, which failed, that would have delayed the vote and would give neighborhood associations, including Tahoe Park, Oak Park, and Elmhurst, a week to go over the project.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg was against delaying the vote while asking why the city would say no to an organization investing billions of dollars into Sacramento.

"If we are going to say no, because it's not perfect, even though it's not just good but great," Steinberg said. "Then where are we as a city without the ability to create significant major new job opportunities."

He says he wants to make sure no one gets displaced and that there’s a built-in mandate which says 20% of all jobs created in this project will go to people already living in this community. 

"We have a lot of work to make sure that those jobs go to our local residents, that we actually build the affordable housing, that we actually put money into ensuring existing renters and homeowners are not displaced, that is our commitment," he said.

Frank Louie, Executive Director for the Stockton Boulevard Partnership says Aggie Square will be a catalyst to attract development south of Broadway.

"It’s going to be a once in a generational opportunity to reimagine Stockton Boulevard," Louie said.

The announcement of Aggie Square has created a buzz on Stockton Boulevard unlike anything he’s seen before, with many, once blighted, vacant lots, already being quickly swiped off the market for housing or mixed-use mostly, because of the project. 

"When you have a corridor like Stockton Boulevard, that is really underserved and we’ve got an opportunity to build more housing and housing is going to drive more economic development and it’s going to lift all boats," he said.

As for the next step in this process, city council will take a vote on the settlement made with the Sacramento Investment Without Displacement Group two weeks from now.

Mayor Steinberg says there is no set timeline for the project yet but he hopes to break ground sometime within the year.

The UC Davis expansion is modeled off the Tech Square in Atlanta. According to UC Davis Chancellor Gary May, Tech Square has a high density of startups, corporate innovation centers, academic research labs and students. 

May released a statement celebrating the Sacramento City Council's decision to move forward with the project.    

"This is a milestone for Aggie Square that will bring real innovation to our region, through jobs, workforce development, housing, industry, and new opportunities for students, faculty and staff," May said.   

Barry Broome, the Greater Sacramento Economic Council President and CEO, also applauded the decision to move forward with Aggie Square. 

"This is a big step forward toward inclusive economic development and this project will be the largest research park our region has ever seen, creating 15,600 total jobs and $2.6 billion in economic impacts to the six-county region."

Sacramento Investment Without Displacement (SIWD), a community activist group, sued the UC Board of Regents over its Aggie Square project. They have since withdrawn the lawsuit, according to Steinberg.

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