A few days ago, I picked up a few friends from Boston and drove them from Airport to their downtown hotel. . This was their first visit to Sacramento. From the airport, I was peppered with questions about my city. They were in town to attend a workshop and worried about having options in the evenings.
In the car, they were taking the in city, asking about undeveloped areas in Natomas near the Sleep Train Arena. In Boston, there aren’t any large undeveloped parcels. There were smiles, as we crossed over the American River looking downtown. “Ohh this is nice and bright” “What’s that?” pointing at Old Sac, more ooh’s.
As we exited onto “J” street, the car became silent. I slowed down so they could see the Golden One Center and someone said, I see you have homeless here too. The car was silent as we arrived at the Sheraton. We’re having dinner tomorrow right? Yes.
After dropping them off, I drove back to 3rd and J streets and looked at the area after dark as if it was my first time.
J Street ,is the Gateway to downtown Sacramento. Everyday, thousands of people visiting Sacramento for the first time enter via J street.
As you enter J street , to the right, there is the bright Holiday Inn, to the left was a closed (at 10pm ) resturant. Next to the Holiday Inn is the rear of Downtown Commons which is very dark. Across from it ,is The Pier Lounge which is bright.
As you cross 5th Street, the brightest building is not the New Sawyer Hotel and Condominiums, its the new Kaiser Permanente building.
From 6th to 7th Street everything is dark.
On the left side of “J” street, between 7th and 8th there is a series of vacant buildings with homeless people sleeping in front of them and one Subway Resturant and a bail bondsman.
Between 8th and 9th Streets is modern apartment building with a few closed restaurants. Across from it is an office building.
9th and 10th Cesar Chavez Park on the Left Side and on the Right side are a few closed businesses and on the corner of 10th is the Citizens Hotel.
The block between 10th and the 11th Street is the worst block in Downtown Sacramento. With the exception of a Liquor Store across from the Citizens Hotel, every building on both sides of the street is vacant.
Thing begin to get better beyond 12th Street near the Sheraton Hotel. The areas is bright, with restaurants and activity. With the exception of the crowds outside the 7/11 the area feels safe.
For the first time since moving here, I saw the city through the eyes of a visitor. After a driving a few mostly vacant blocks on J Street, I’m not sure if I would want to continue.
“J” is Sacramento’s welcome mat. It is the first thing visitors see off Interstate 5. It is the exit, drivers wanting a break from the road on route to San Francisco or Los Angeles from Portland and Seattle or would take. The first few block on “J” street might determine if the visitor wants to see more of the city.
Sacramento often forgets ,”K” is just one street in Sacramento. Millions has been spent on Kay Street To get to K street one has to exit onto J Street.
Sacramento is a wonderful and beautiful city filled with amazing trees and historic areas. The midtown area is vibrant day and night with something for everyone. One could spend a full day touring our wonderful museums.
Unfortunately, the first time visitors have to drive through a seedy and scary mess to get to get to the beauty.