Many of the roads are paved, the bridges built and the streetlights on. Now Sacramento’s massive development of its historic downtown railyard has the official go-ahead from the City Council.
Sacramento City Council members approved the final environmental impact report and development agreement for the 244-acre site north of downtown Thursday night. The highlights of the plan include a Major League Soccer stadium seating 19,621, up to 10,000 homes and a Kaiser Permanente medical campus of up to 1.2 million square feet.
The approval also sets the stage for up to 3.8 million square feet of office space, museums, shops, 1,100 hotel rooms and 34 acres of parks and open space.
“This is an enormous opportunity for Sacramento,” said Councilman Jeff Harris, who represents the railyard. “We’re looking at doubling the size of our downtown.”
The approval of the $226 million soccer stadium came at a key time in Republic FC’s quest to earn an expansion spot in Major League Soccer. A committee of MLS owners exploring potential expansion cities met this week in New York and the league’s full ownership board is expected to discuss expansion again in December.
Republic FC managing partner Kevin Nagle said team officials briefed MLS Commissioner Don Garber on the team’s progress within the past week.
“(The stadium approval) passes another milestone in the road to MLS,” Nagle said. “Sacramento has never been closer to MLS.”
Republic FC appeared to address what could have been organized opposition to the stadium project.
Unions had vowed to oppose the stadium if food-service workers at the facility were not granted the right to organize. But Jeff Dorso, an attorney for Republic FC, told the City Council that other MLS franchises have labor agreements for their food workers “and we don’t intend to be the one that doesn’t.”
Fabrizio Sasso, executive director of the Sacramento Central Labor Council, said the union was withdrawing its opposition to the project. He said his organization would still work with the project developer to ensure the railyards bring “good paying, quality jobs for future generations.”
Other opposition is brewing to the overall railyards plan, however: Some say the plan does not include enough affordable housing units.
Dana Simas, a member of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Commission, said her board has asked that 10 percent of the housing units – or up to 1,000 – be affordable. She said many of the people who will work in the railyard – notably stadium workers – won’t be able to afford expensive housing.
“We feel like that’s enough, based on how many new jobs and people are expected to be in the development,” she said. “We need to do more. We need to have the right priorities.”
The new streets of downtown Sacramento's shuttered railyard were officially opened to traffic on Aug. 19, 2016, as developers prepared the property for building.