As Gov. Gavin Newsom and state leaders grapple with California’s housing crisis, some longtime Sacramento homeowners are bewildered by a government project that would decrease the supply of housing by demolishing their own homes, all of which have been in place for 30 years.
“We’ve been notified that the house will be gone,” Katherine Dixon, of La Lima Way, told KCRA News. “With no say in the matter really until we go to eminent domain,” Dixon added, “if they come up with the wrong figure.”
Neighbor Bob Clark told KCRA, “Nobody knew this was coming. We were not notified, we didn’t get anything in the mail.” John Bassett of the Sacramento Flood Control Agency (SAFCA) conceded that “we didn’t want a general notice to go out” and those targeted for displacement were notified “as soon as we knew that acquisition is required.”
The Natomas Levee Improvement Plan, launched in 2007, aims to reduce the area’s vulnerability to flooding and will make improvements to Garden Highway that runs atop the current levee.
Local news articles on the project in 2006 and 2014 make no mention of demolished houses, and neither does a 2013 statement from Rep. Doris Matsui, who introduced H.R. 433, the Natomas Flood Protection Improvements Act, in the House of Representatives.
The SAFCA has retained the Overland, Pacific & Cutler, LLC (OPC) firm to “assist” those displaced by the project. On September 9, 2019, OPC “project manager,” Steve Harris announced that OPC had prepared the third draft of the plan and calls for those comments by October 9, 2019, for inclusion in the final draft. As Harris wrote, “Please do not take steps to relocate or move prior to receiving advanced notification.”
That left some homeowners wondering about their property rights, and about the OPC firm that seeks to “assist” in their relocation.
According to its website, OPC is dedicated to “enhancing lives through infrastructure” and in that cause “delivers right of way.” That, in turn, “makes possible the projects that enhance quality of life,” such as wider roads, freeways, and bridges, and “creating new modes of mass transit,” and “creating affordable housing projects.” Without right of way, OPC states, “those improvements would never happen.”
Under “Our Reputation,” OPC says it is known for tackling the largest and most complex projects, with “creativity and dedication,” and with “the least disruption and public exposure.” OPC president and CEO Brian Everett is a “former public agency executive,” but the public agency is not named. Mr. Everett “brings over 25 years of full-service real estate consulting expertise to OPC.”
Senior vice president Michelle Folk, is OPC’s “cornerstone Affordable Housing practitioner,” with, “the R/W-RAC, R/W-URAC, and R/W-NAC certifications.” According to the International Right of Way Association, those stand for, respectively, Right of Way Relocation Assistance, Right of Way Uniform Certification Program, and Right of Way Negotiation and Acquisition Certification. Ms. Folk is also “considered one of the nation’s leading experts in HUD-funded housing projects.”
Contacted on Monday, OPC project manager Steve Harris could not tell the California Globe if any version of the Natomas plan had preserved the houses now slated for demolition (see document below). At this writing, OPC has not responded to questions including which government officials approached the firm about taking on this project.
As KCRA reported, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to complete the project by 2024 and residents on the “demolition list” have been told they have until October 2020, less than one year, to move out.
As some may recall, in Blazing Saddles Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) lamented that only one thing stood between him and the land he wanted to seize: “the rightful owners.” So Lamar recruited a gang to drive out those owners. In similar style, the SAFCA kept homeowners in the dark and deploys OPC to “assist” those on the demolition list.
Meanwhile, the levee project currently in progress near Discovery Park, and now blocking Garden Highway at Natomas Park Drive, has left in place many squatters living under the I-5 overpass and in hovels along the levee.NBP_Relocation_Assistance_Plan_3rd_Amendment