In “Natomas Development,” an article in the January N Magazine, Sacramento city councilman Steve Hansen noted “challenges” for the River Oak community working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on levee improvements scheduled to continue for a few more years.
“People at Swallow’s Nest will lose some property [to eminent domain],” Hansen told the magazine. “A few houses along the Garden Highway will be affected. People have known for a while that they’re in the path of construction. Now that time is getting closer and they’re upset about it.”
The California Globe posed a series of questions to councilman Hansen, who directed Jay Davis of the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency to respond on his behalf.
“A few houses,” turns out to be 10 homes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has identified “that must be removed for the project,” Davis told the Globe in an email. The Globe also asked how long “for a while” might be.
“The City of Sacramento is not responsible for constructing the project and therefore has not provided written notice to those property owners directly affected,” Davis told the Globe. “SAFCA initiated the project and constructed 18 miles of levee improvements between 2007-2013. There have been numerous environmental documents released over the past decade related to the project and the Corps and SAFCA have held public meetings in the past.” No specific dates, but more to the story.
“It is important to note that until the Corps advances its design work in any particular levee reach, it is not possible to know the final real estate needs of the project.” Davis added: “The Corps completed its initial design plan for Project Reach A levee construction in fall 2019, at which time affected property owners were notified by SAFCA of the need to acquire their property for the project. However, the potential impacts would have been initially disclosed in the preparation and issuance of past environmental documents.”
The California Globe wanted to know who would own the targeted homes, and the time lapse between acquisition and demolition. SAFCA will own the homes and according to Davis the agency will be “minimizing the period of time the home is vacant” before demolition. During that unspecified time, would any indigents be moved into the vacant homes?
“No government agency is considering a proposal to house indigent persons in the homes,” Jay Davis told the Globe. If indigents attempted to occupy the vacant homes, how would the agencies respond? According to Davis, “SAFCA, as the property owner, would be responsible for removing any illegal trespassers through existing legal procedures/processes.” That too can be a challenging matter.
As Marisa Kendall reports in the San Jose Mercury News, last November the group Moms 4 Housing moved several homeless women into an empty house in Oakland, without permission of the owner. The squatters remained there into mid-January, despite an Alameda County judge ordering their removal. As Kendall notes, Steven DeCaprio moved into a vacant house in Oakland and wound up owning the home through “adverse possession” laws, also known as “squatters rights.”
Meanwhile, indigents have already set up many illegal encampments along the Natomas levee. Jay Davis told the California Globe, “USACE doesn’t notify or remove any encampments along the project area. The Corps and our contractor will work with local authorities to notify the transient population of their requirement to vacate the area.”
Notified or not, the transients have not vacated the area. On the other hand, as Jay Davis explained, 10 existing homes “must be removed for the project.”
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