Reporting Sam Shane
More than four years after a CBS13 investigation revealed disgusting living conditions at The Hotel Berry, the building at 7th and L Streets is cleaned up and breathing new life into Downtown Sacramento.
It was a $24 million renovation job, paid for with your tax dollars. CBS13 asks; was it worth the investment?
It’s moving day for Daniel Drazich. He’s retired and on a fixed income. He’ll now call The Studios at Hotel Berry home.
The building was once one of Sacramento’s ugliest eyesores. Today it is hip, new, and completely renovated.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to afford a place downtown, and here it is, and I’m really happy with that,” said Drazich.
It’s safe to say he wouldn’t have wanted to live here back in 2008 when a CBS13 investigation revealed deplorable living conditions. We found rodent droppings, cockroaches, backed up toilets, fire doors hanging off hinges, and an elevator running without a permit for three years.
Sam: “I mean, it was a dangerous old building.”
Michael: “I think that’s absolutely accurate, that’s absolutely accurate.”
Michael Massie of Jamboree Housing Corporation took over the project under the direction of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, an agency that promised for years to fix it up. But as the years wore on, instead of fixing it, the Hotel Berry got worse, until now.
The $24 million redevelopment project is mainly funded by taxpayers, with $13.5 million coming from US taxpayers in the form of federal stimulus money from 2009. Another $10 million came from taxpayers through the SHRA.
The before and after show a stark contrast, but was it worth it?
Sam: “Is that the best way we can spend money in America today?”
La Shelle: “From a redevelopment perspective, it’s really what the purpose of what redevelopment is.”
SHRA Executive Director La Shell Dozier says you’d be hard-pressed to find a private developer willing to take on a task like The Hotel Berry. And if they hadn’t stepped up to the plate, taxpayers would feel the burden even more.
“If people don’t have a place that’s safe to live and a place that they call home, they’re going to impact our criminal justice system, they’re going to impact the schools when you have children who don’t have homes to come home to,” said Dozier.
But spending millions of taxpayer dollars on redevelopment projects may be a dying industry. Governor Jerry Brown recently led the charge to shut down redevelopment agencies.
Critics say redevelopment has become welfare for developers. Republican Assemblyman Chris Norby of Fullerton was quoted earlier this year saying, “The state’s broke and we can no longer afford this kind of expensive corporate welfare that redevelopment has become.”
The 104 made-over studios at Hotel Berry will be rented to low income residents, most of whom cannot afford a downtown apartment. Rent will run from $330 to $530 a month.
Sam: “How do you make sure these things don’t get trashed?”
Michael: “That’s a great question. And it comes down to experience. Jamboree has a long history of providing safe, decent and affordable housing over the long term. We’re long-term holders.”
Unlike the old Hotel Berry, in The Studios at Hotel Berry, the elevator works and has been inspected, the fire doors are up to code, and security cameras roll 24 hours a day.
“I look at the progress we’ve made over the past 18 months,” said Massie, “There are tangible results — things you can touch. You can actually see the improvement. And once we have people here, that’s when the real improvement’s gonna happen.”
For Drazich and other residents here, it makes sense. The eyesore on this downtown Sacramento corner is gone for now.
The Studios at Hotel Berry are still taking applications for open units. You can call (916) 448-9510 or go online for more information.