Survival Mode

Pocket comes through stronger than ever

By R.E. Graswich
July 2021

People in Pocket and Greenhaven who have worked from home the past 16 months might believe their neighborhood exists in a universe removed from City Hall. It’s understandable. But I can tell you it’s not true.

The city did not forget about Pocket during the pandemic. The city had bigger things to worry about. Federal and state bailouts saved the day, making it easy to forget how bad the future looked at City Hall last summer.

To recap: Sales tax revenue and money from hotels, rental cars and conventions collapsed. Income from city garages and parking meters disappeared. There was no parking ticket revenue, because there were no parked cars. Social justice protests filled Downtown streets. Looting and property destruction spilled into retail areas.

Pocket and Greenhaven avoided those catastrophes. The community doesn’t cater to tourists, conventioneers or looters. There are no garages or parking meters. Protesters weren’t interested in Pocket’s placid, suburban streets, other than a few misfits who figured out where Mayor Darrell Steinberg lives and showed up at his home to yell, throw rocks and wreck garden ornaments.

City authorities did manage to slightly disrupt Pocket’s bliss, but no harm was done and the imposition was soon corrected. In September, the City Council took away just over $4 million designated for the Sacramento River Parkway Bike Trail.

At the time, the city claimed it was putting the money “on hold.” For people who don’t trust politicians, “on hold” might have suggested the city was breaking its promise to build the levee parkway—a promise “on hold” since 1975. For a while, I began to worry.

But the city isn’t backing away from the levee bike trail. Those parkway millions put “on hold” were strategic. They helped keep the city’s books balanced until bailout money was secured.

Earlier this year, the city quietly added $4.5 million to the levee bike trail project between Garcia Bend and Zacharias Park—a stretch that for decades was blighted with illegal fences, gates and barbed wire strung by property owners near the river.

In a neat summation of the $4.5 million, the city manager’s office explains, “This will provide the public with open-space access along the Sacramento River, provide a safe path for bicycling and walking, and create stronger connectivity amongst neighborhoods and communities.”

“We actually got a little more money put back than was taken out in September,” says Dennis Rogers, chief of staff for Pocket City Councilmember Rick Jennings. Today, the project funds top $8 million, thanks to additional money from Sacramento Area Council of Governments.

Actions such as returning $4.5 million to the levee bike trail show how Pocket and Greenhaven aren’t ignored by City Hall. This is something residents should never take for granted. If the City Council was filled with people who were shortsighted or beholden to Downtown interests, they could forget the cozy riverfront suburb to the south.

Pocket and Greenhaven were designed around 60 years ago to function as a bubble, a place apart from the city, a unique community where residents have everything they need. Other than going to work or a hospital, there’s no reason to leave.

To understand the designer’s temptation to create the Pocket bubble, consult a map and remember what the planners saw: To the west was a broad river bend. To the east was a smooth new freeway. Interstate 5 stopped at Pocket until 1979, when the Stockton gap was finished. In those days, Pocket was the end of the road. A better bubble could not be imagined.

The past 16 months tested the bubble in ways planners didn’t anticipate. Families lost loved ones. Businesses suffered. But the community’s future is bright, especially with $8 million for what City Hall calls “the most defining natural resource in the region.”

R.E. Graswich can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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