By Antonio R. Harvey | Observer Staff Writer
SACRAMENTO – The Sacramento City Council voted April 6 in favor of a community benefits partnership agreement with the Regents of the University of California that could pour about $60 million into building affordable housing along the Stockton Boulevard corridor.
The partnership was approved in a 7-2 vote as the “Community Benefits Agreement” for the Aggie Square Project on behalf of the University of California Davis and Wexford Development. The agreement approves $29 million from the City of Sacramento and Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency and $29 million from real estate taxes generated by private industry for affordable housing resources.
“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,” UC Davis Chancellor Gary May said after the vote. “I celebrate the passing of this landmark agreement with UC Davis, the city of Sacramento and Wexford Science and Technology. Each of us has a real stake in this partnership and making sure it succeeds.”
Aggie Square, scheduled to break ground this year, is centered around more than 1.2 million square feet of public and private space that will be used for research and academic pursuits, support for start-ups launching new businesses, continuing education and job training.
The development of the Aggie Square project’s first phase requires Wexford to design and construct substantial new public infrastructure that is beyond the project’s financial capacity.
The partnership will support the $1.1 billion project, serve as a catalyst for project implementation and ensure that the community benefits are broadly distributed to Sacramento residents.
The Aggie Square project was not entirely greeted with open arms. In December, a coalition of groups, consisting of residents in the UC Davis Medical Center area (Sacramento Investment Without Displacement – SIWD) filed a lawsuit against the entities insisting that the university’s environmental impact report left out the possibility that the loss of affordable housing was at stake.
In fear that the lawsuit would hamper the project’s progress, the city agreed to settle its differences with SIWD. The group questioned whether the project increased the need for housing and a jump in housing prices that would price the current residents out of the area.
Councilwomen Mai Vang (District 8), Katie Valenzuela (District 4), and Angelique Ashby (District 1) praised the project with high regard. But they also questioned some of the issues that surround UC Davis Medical Center.
The unhoused crisis, poverty, crime, glaring gentrification in Oak Park, and lack of input from local neighborhood associations (Oak Park, Elmhurst, Tahoe Park, and South Oak Park) were concerns of the elected women officials. Vang and Valenzuela voted against the partnership agreement.
“This is what inclusive economic development really means,” Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said. “Aggie Square is the single biggest high-wage jobs and housing opportunity we have had in this city in decades. The Community Benefits Partnership Agreement is a promise to all of Sacramento that this transformational project will be for all, not just for some.”