Affordable housing lawsuit may slow down Aggie Square construction project

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The $1 billion Aggie Square project is touted as a major innovation and technology hub for UC Davis researchers and private entrepreneurs, which would create as many as 5,000 high paying jobs in addition to 5,000 construction jobs.

At build out, millions of dollars in tax revenue supposedly would help revitalize surrounding neighborhoods and the Stockton Boulevard corridor.

“Create something great for Sacramento, create something great for the neighborhoods and all of our people,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

But those hefty expectations could be on hold after a coalition of over a dozen neighborhood and activist groups filed a lawsuit saying that the university’s environmental impact report didn’t address the loss of affordable housing.

The lawsuit filed by Sacramento Investment Without Displacement says the project would bring in 7,700 residents while providing only 324 additional housing units.

According to the lawsuit, “…the vast majority of the Project’s population will have to find housing in neighborhoods surrounding the Project or elsewhere,” and that the project “will exacerbate existing housing inequities and drive displacement in some of Sacramento’s most historically underserved communities.”

Housing activists said the goals of economic equality and justice will fall by the wayside in the adjacent Oak Park, Tahoe Park and South Sacramento neighborhoods.

“A lawsuit… it’s leverage I suppose, but it’s not productive,” Steinberg said.

Project proponents said housing and jobs are directly in their sights, with 700 units of housing in the works, along with anti-displacement measures.

“We’re looking at a mortgage assistance program, a rental assistance program, first-time homebuyer loans,” explained Councilman Jay Schenirer.

All will be financed by huge increases in tax revenue provided by the project. Construction and ongoing jobs are set aside for locals, he added.

“3,500 to 5,000 ongoing permanent jobs that are union jobs, that are high paying — that’s the best way we can prevent displacement,” Schenirer said.

But the lawsuit is a sign that some neighborhood groups don’t buy into the promises.

For proponents, it’s simple.

“No project, no community benefits,” Steinberg said.

“There’s no housing, there’s no jobs and we’ll continue to have a blighted neighborhood,” Schenirer added.

City officials said more public meetings and discussions with those not a part of the lawsuit are planned for January when a plan that satisfies displacement concerns could be hammered out.

Initial projections called for Phase One of Aggie Square construction to begin in the first half of 2021. A drawn out legal fight could disrupt that timeline.

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