Aggie Square is described as a “game changing partnership” that will bring innovative opportunities to the area surrounding the UC Davis Medical Center on Stockton Boulevard. Local residents say they don’t want to be losers when the project, which will include the building of spaces for research facilities, academic programs, offices, retail and mixed-use space,and housing, kicks into gear.
The Sacramento Building Healthy Communities: Community Development Action Team and Sacramento Investment Without Displacement (SacIWD) held a press conference at the Fruitridge Community Collaborative last week, demanding a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) in the UC Davis Aggie Square project to ensure issues of affordable housing, jobs, healthcare access, and other issues are addressed in any major projects brought to the community.
SacIWD is a coalition of community organizations and neighborhood associations. Coalition members have been working together for almost two years and say the proposed Aggie Square project at UC Davis Medical Center “has the potential to improve and protect residents’ health, provide residents with access to good union jobs that pay a living wage, improve the quality of our neighborhoods, and reduce existing inequities.” Members want to make sure area residents in the 95817, 95820 and 95824 zip codes aren’t summarily boxed out, and priced out, by the Aggie Square project.
Community involvement topped a list of concerns.
“While neighborhoods surrounding Aggie Square will be altered by the many thousands of new workers and students at Aggie Square, with a recent estimate as high as 25,000, and the flow of billions of dollars, the traditional avenues of resident involvement will be weakened, and those communities already on the fringes are likely to be further silenced,” reads a statement from the group.
Concerns also include local hiring, affordable housing access, access to primary care for Medi-Cal beneficiaries, project labor, and local business protections and support.
“This is about building with our community,” HUB Director Kim Williams said.
“This is about making sure that everybody in our community has the opportunity to advance, to uplift and that 10 years from now the people who live here now will still get to be here and will still get to benefit and not have to be displaced or moved out just because they can’t afford to live here anymore and the thousands and thousands of jobs that are going to come into the community because of Aggie Square, that the people who live here now have the access and have the opportunity to get those jobs,” Ms. Williams added.
Local activist Faye Kennedy was among the speakers addressing the area’s unhoused population.
“Sacramento is in the middle of a housing crisis,” Ms. Kennedy said. “Those of us who live particularly near up and down the Stockton Boulevard Corridor, we see it, we witness it.”
Ms. Kennedy is a member of the Sacramento Area Black Caucus, the Sacramento Poor People’s Campaign and the Southwest Village Neighborhood Association.
“What we want is mutual respect,” she said. “The CBA has to respect what the residents, housed and unhoused want.”
Gabby Trejo, executive director of Sacramento Area Congregations Together (ACT) and a member of the coalition said the CBA would be a legally binding “commitment” from UC Davis and the Sacramento City Council.
“CBAs are a contract between a developer and a community, but they are also a moral document that places value on people, not just profit,” Ms. Trejo said.
“Our community is tired of promises and projects that have no legal binding. We don’t need UC Davis to continue to use us as a focus group. We need UC Davis to take our community, our residents’ concerns seriously and be thinking partners with the residents that will be impacted in the future,” she continued.
Kendra Lewis with the Sacramento Housing Alliance said a CBA will “seal this deal.”
“The CBA helps to correct the long-entrenched history of broken promises and agreements that leave the most vulnerable hopeless and helpless,” Ms. Lewis shared.
To officials, she said, “This CBA means you are committed, you care and you want to correct the past; you want to begin to make things whole and not continue to take advantage of those who appear to be voiceless. Let’s be that change together.”
Resident and community organizer McKenzie Wilson says she’s already seen change in Oak Park.
“Oak Park is a predominantly Black and brown community and it no longer looks that way,” she said. “It’s already been displaced. It’s already been gentrified.”
Having UC Davis and the City “being in bed with the Stockton Business Partnership,” she said, only makes things worse.
“We want a legally binding contract, but the truth is we want for UC Davis to admit they are a for-profit healthcare system that uses our public tax dollars to gentrify, displace, and monetize and prioritize public space and public things and that this is all a cha-ching for them,” Ms. Wilson said.
Tanya Bean-Garrett works at the Fruitridge Collaborative where the press conference was held and attended school in the building back when it was the Fruitridge Elementary School. She wants to know who will benefit from the Aggie Square project. She says the neighborhood no longer looks like it did just 10 years ago. Gentrification, isn’t what bothers her, she says, but the exclusionary way things are often done leading up to it.
“It doesn’t matter color or creed; red, Black, green, or White. If you’re going to build, let’s build together. It’s about what we can do to help each other,” Ms. Bean-Garrett said.
By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer