Will Demolishing Homes Solve California’s Housing Crisis?
For months now, California legislators have been decrying the state’s housing crisis. That crisis will soon be made worse by the Natomas Levee Improvement Plan, launched in Sacramento in 2007. The plan aims to reduce the area’s vulnerability to flooding and will make improvements to Garden Highway that runs atop the current levee. It was only this year, some residents learned, that the plan would seize and demolish their houses, in place for more than 30 years.
The Sacramento Flood Control Agency (SAFCA) is on record that it put out no general notice about the seizures and demolitions, which the government agency is not handling directly. SAFCA retained the Overland, Pacific & Cutler, LLC (OPC) firm to “assist” those displaced by the project. According to its website, OPC is dedicated to “enhancing lives through infrastructure” and in that cause “delivers right of way,” without which “those improvements do not happen.”
In September, OPC “project manager” Steve Harris announced that OPC had prepared the third draft of the plan and called 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 an advanced notification.” The residents on the demolition list wondered about their property rights, and by what authority OPC’s Harris forbade them to move or relocate.
OPC did not respond to questions sent by this writer via email, so what SAFCA is paying the firm remains unknown. The company website does reveal that OPC president and CEO Brian Everett is a “former public agency executive,” but the public agency is not named. Senior Vice President Michelle Folk, who boasts R/W-RAC, R/W-URAC, and R/W-NAC certifications, is also “considered one of the nation’s leading experts in HUD-funded housing projects.”
As KCRA News 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 on the demolition list have noted, the nearby levee renovation already underway has left in place squatters living under the Interstate 5 overpass and in adjacent hovels.