Here and Now

It’s finally our moment, Sacramento

By Gary Delsohn
August 2019

It wasn’t long ago when Sacramento was seen as nothing more than a pleasant but dull government town without much of interest going on. We were close to Lake Tahoe and San Francisco, but if you were looking for an urban experience, you tended to look elsewhere.

But Sacramento today is a different city. This is our moment, and it’s been going on for a while now with no slowdown in sight. It’s as if we went to bed one night and woke up to find the place became hip all at once.

The acclaimed little film “Lady Bird” went a long way to put us on the map in 2017, but we were already there. Holding onto the Kings when cooler Seattle or Anaheim were poised to steal our team feels like a turning point. Whether you like basketball or not, keeping the Kings and building a new arena Downtown generated more than $1 billion worth of public and private investment in a slice of Downtown that probably would not have materialized in my lifetime if the Kings were gone.

It’s not all attributable to the arena, of course, but we now have farm-to-fork, an eclectic collection of interesting restaurants, murals popping up on Downtown buildings, housing in Midtown, an increasingly vibrant art and cultural scene, Second Saturday, nightclubs, the expanded Crocker, a new vision for Old Sacramento and the riverfront, R Street coming to life, development in the Downtown railyards, microbrewers spouting everywhere, construction cranes visible far and wide.

And let’s not overlook upstart West Sacramento, with the Bridge District around Raley Field and all the housing and other development coming online.

Parking garages are being razed to make way for Downtown apartments. We’re getting more hotel rooms. A new courthouse and Natural Resources office tower for the state. We have the new B Street Theatre. The Science Center and maybe a new soccer stadium are on the way. The Convention Center, Memorial Auditorium and Community Center Theater are all being upgraded.

The area around Golden 1 Center remains a work in progress, but it’s coming along. And the best thing about going to a game or other event is that when it’s over, thousands of people walk outside and instead of searching for their cars in North Natomas, they’re in the city’s core, spending money, meeting friends and doing what people in cities do.

Our skyline is being transformed, but as much as we like to look up and see pretty buildings, it’s not about the skyline. Real urbanity takes place on the streets, and that’s where Sacramento has more to look at, interact with, walk around and enjoy than ever before.

People on the urban fringe are actually packing up the car or riding light rail and going Downtown to hang out and be entertained. The city’s core, neglected and avoided for so long by most of the regional population, is a destination.

Once we do more to weave the city’s two rivers more fully into everyday life, we will really have something special going on.


Once we do more to weave the city’s two rivers more fully into everyday life, we will really have something special going on.

More importantly, we’re feeling better about our city. It’s palpable. In the past year, New York magazine and the New York Times ran features on our town with headlines like, “Explore the New California Cool in Sacramento.” We don’t need outsiders validating us, but a little love on the national scene is a good thing.

With so much happening, I was thrilled when Inside Sacramento asked if I wanted to author this new column on the city’s built environment as I did for more than a decade when I wrote for The Sacramento Bee.

California’s capital city has its challenges, but we’re building a city that’s being noticed for its own achievements, where more young residents are electing to stay and build careers in their hometown because there’s opportunity and interesting work going on. The economy is becoming more diverse and we’re no longer a place known for politics, winter fog and hot summers.

In the months ahead, I’ll explore some of the people and places driving Sacramento’s emergence. I look forward to hearing from you about all this activity and how the city can best take advantage of the challenges and opportunities before us. As things continue to unfold, enjoy the moment, Sacramento. It’s all ours.

Gary Delsohn can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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