Forced to Lose their HomeOct 14, 2022 12:00AM ● By By Michele Townsend
The Duran/Sanchez family in Fall 2022. Photo courtesy of Mike Sanchez
WEST SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - A family is fighting the city of West Sacramento from taking their family home through eminent domain, in the name of the I Street bridge project.
There are many aspects to this story that need consideration. The history of the home and the historical significance surrounding it, the planned use of the property, the city’s view on communication regarding the plans, the family’s view on the communication and the alternate options.
History of the home and family: When the California Gold Rush caused an explosion in population in Sacramento it brought the Pony Express and the first California Railroad to Sacramento. Towns were built to accommodate. In 1888 one of the oldest homes still standing in Broderick was built. Approximately 50 years later, Santos and Manuela Marquez purchased the home, as it was conveniently located near his work at the railyards across the river. They had a son, Louis Marquez who became an educator and principal in the Washington School District for 30 years.
Their daughter Amelia, being raised in that home, married Richard Duran and moved into the home where they raised five children of their own. Richard and Amelia were founding members of Holy Cross Church and Amelia was the first female Eucharist Minister at Holy Cross Parish. Richard was a WWII and Korean War Veteran. The couple was very active in the community and meetings were often held in their driveway in preparation for the incorporation of the City of West Sacramento. They stayed in their home, where family cared for them through the end of their lives, subsequently passing the home to their children.
That home is now owned and occupied by the fourth generation of that family. Mike Sanchez and his fiancé’ purchased the home earlier this year. Mike was very excited, as he grew up visiting his grandparents here and even took his first steps in the living room. Mike himself, served in the Marines for six years. The home has been well maintained as time has passed, but it still holds original portions of the 1888 home. The beautifully maintained yard consists of several heritage type fruit trees as well as two Sequoia Oak trees. Sequoia Oak trees grow only in California and are endangered. Even more so after recent California forest fires.
City plans: Recently, Sanchez was informed by a neighbor that his house is shown on a map of the I Street Bridge Project as one that is going to be removed for the construction of an alley. What’s worse is that the plan is to put in an alley way to a street that only contains abandoned, condemned homes and a “dysfunctional apartment complex, mostly filled with squatters.” In addition, there is already an existing road just 80 – 100 feet from the Sanchez property that goes to the same place the alley would.
City officials and staff responses: Sacramento is the lead on the Bridge project. Sanchez spoke to Jesse Gothan, Project Manager, but he painted a picture like there was nothing Sanchez could do. He said that the family was given the chance to protest the plan during several community outreach meetings since 2014. His overall sentiment was that they “should have known.”
Surprisingly, West Sacramento City Staff expressed that they disagree with the plan, as the alley design is unsafe in traffic design due to two unsafe, sharp turns. City staff further expressed that the apartment complex mentioned earlier was planned for a “cut and reconstruct,” meaning only one wing of the complex would be removed. Staff believes this would require the rest of the complex would have to be brought up to code or bulldozed and rebuilt. All at the expense of the city and the taxpayers.
The City of West Sac released a statement that says, “The I Street Bridge replacement project has been the subject of extensive public outreach, and its design has prioritized minimizing the impact on surrounding properties.”
Due to the location of the new bridge approach, additional local access in the 2nd and 3rd Streets neighborhood has been identified and approved by the West Sacramento City Council on August 7, 2019. The engineering design of these streets is currently in development and will be completed in the coming months. Design refinements will be presented to the City Council at future publicly noticed meetings as required, to complete the final design and right-of-way process.
The possibility that certain properties could be impacted by the project has been publicly discussed since 2014 through extensive community engagement. Residents and businesses were invited to an introductory project open house. The neighborhood was also mailed invitations to attend the initial environmental scoping meeting and notified of project boundaries. More than 15 public meetings and community events including workshops to review bridge designs and changes to accommodate new access routes were also held over the past several years with the final design announced during a widely publicized news conference in 2020.
The design process is 65% complete, and final decisions concerning individual properties have not been made. The City is working on ways to reduce potential neighborhood impacts. The City intends to provide additional outreach to property owners, tenants, and businesses over the next several months.
“I can appreciate the family's perspective on the history of their home. The city is looking into the matter and will be analyzing alternatives,” said Councilwoman Alcala. Mayor Guerrero says she is listening. She says she has taken an interest and is looking into the situation. She visited the area with a friend, to check it out personally.
Family response: “No one should have to learn that they are going to be forced to lose their home in a community outreach meeting,” said Mike Sanchez. “When they began holding those meetings the family was taking care of my 90-year-old grandparents and there was family there 24/7. The advertising for those meetings said that they were about bridge design, amenities, paint color and plants around the base of the bridge. They never said that it would include the removal of our home!”
Sanchez says that the city has never reached out to the occupants of the house directly and that the vague invitations to a meeting should not be considered appropriate notice.
What happens now? Rhonda Pope-Flores spoke in a previous City Council meeting saying that she feared that “the riverfront project would be pushed, and the locals will be squeezed out.” Is that what is going to happen? Does the city have a focus set so hard on growth that they are willing to snuff out the families that built this town?
A closed session City Council meeting is currently scheduled for October 19th to discuss this issue. Currently, the plan is only 65% approved, but now that the rest of the funding has been established, it is believed that the project will be pushed through and reaching the 100% approval required is expected by the beginning of next year.