Commentary: A Neighborhood Rises

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, March 24, 2006

Gleaming Phoenix Park stands where one of Sacramento's most notorious housing tracts once loomed darkly, blighting the landscape for miles around.

The former Franklin Villa, a collection of dilapidated 1960s fourplexes, had fallen into complete disrepair. By the 1990s, only the desperate rented there. Squatters camped out in some of the vacant units. Children were kept inside for their own protection. Gangsters and drug dealers ruled the common areas between buildings. Pizza parlors refused to deliver at Franklin Villa; so did Bee carriers. It was that dangerous.

All that has changed.

Prodded by Sacramento City Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell, the city scraped together $84 million dollars in public and private funds and bought out all the owners, one by one -  in some cases using its power of eminent domain.

Rebuilt, under new management, with strict tenant screening in place, a tidy safe neighborhood has emerged from what had been a dangerous slum. Phoenix Park is fully rented today. Children play outside again. Crime has plummeted. Property values are rising.

"To turn this place around - that means the world to me," Bonnie Pannell said. It means that, and more, to the new residents of Phoenix Park.


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.