On Sept. 13, 2022, the Sacramento City Council declared “916 Day” to “celebrate city parks as the cornerstone of our 916 Community.” On Sept. 16 and 17, city parks commissioners held a number of “beautification and service events” at a handful of locations.
In the southeast part of the city on Sept. 17, workers arrived early at the George Sim Community Center to prepare for a tree-planting event organized by District 6 Parks Commissioner Victoria Vasquez.
A motorhome surrounded by garbage was parked across the street. One block away, on a concrete slab that once contained an apartment building, a man was picking through garbage dumped there by homeless people. According to Sacramento County Assessor data, the abandoned parcel is zoned for single-family residential at 6-8 units per acre, and the owner owes two delinquent tax payments on the property.
Commissioner Vasquez said the homeless problem is out of her jurisdiction, but that city residents can report homeless encampments to Sacramento 311 and violent crimes to 911.
A woman who lives in the neighborhood said her community has reported the camp to city authorities, and that residents are frustrated nothing has been done. “I have two children who are afraid to walk down this street because of the homeless camp,” she said. “We’ve tried to get the city to do something about it.”
Less than two miles from Sim Center, at 8144 Florin Rd., Sacramento County has erected 100 “sleeping cabins” where a grocery store once stood. In coming months, the site is scheduled to add power and sewer lines, restrooms and showers, quarters for the 24/7 on-site operator, and a security booth. None of that infrastructure currently exists, and several occupied tents are still present just outside the fence that surrounds the camp.
The temporary shelters were built by a company named Pallet, which has also built 177 cabins in the city of Chico. The Enterprise-Record reported that construction was initially funded with $1.7 million from President Joe Biden’s “American Rescue Plan.” The site had reportedly served 175 people as of Aug. 11, 2022.
Located near the intersection of Power Inn and Elder Creek, the neighborhood around Sim Center includes Elder Creek Elementary School. The neighborhood is in Sacramento Police Beat 6C, and the city says there have been 1,583 crimes in the area this year. Larceny (330 reports) and burglary (227) are the top two.
The beautification event eventually attracted approximately 30 people, who used tools provided by the parks department to plant trees and spread mulch.
Devin Lavelle, Parks Commissioner from District 7, set up his mobile phone on a tripod and captured photos of himself shoveling mulch into a wheelbarrow. He also used a selfie stick to take a photo of the group, and then left. A city parks worker used a Ditch Witch construction vehicle to finish moving the mulch.
Commissioner Vasquez said Lavelle had other events to attend, and his Facebook page confirms that he took numerous selfies around the city.
Sacramento Mayor Pro Tem Eric Guerra, who is running for state Assembly, also attended the event with several staff members. He left without making a public statement about the city’s beautification plan or its efforts to clean up the homeless camp.
The city says commissioners “aim” to hold 916 Day events every year to “highlight how parks create a healthy, strong, and thriving community.”
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