Sacramento, California: Superfund to Brownfields, Private/Public Collaboration, Community-wide Long-term Planning Two large sites that were railroads.
In 1984 the 240-acre Southern Pacific terminus of the trans-continental railroad was designated a State Superfund Site. Activities over the last 150 years on this site included everything but weaving the cloth for the draperies … metal was smelted for silverware, locomotives were built, painting the cars and major maintenance and repair took place here. Wastes from these processes were land filled and poured into low-lying areas on the site, creating heavily contaminated lagoons.

Redevelopment of the site is critical to the vitality of the city as a whole. It is located just north of downtown Sacramento, and is of such proportions that if redeveloped would double the size of the downtown area. In 1985 a local developer, recognizing the potential for redevelopment, purchased an option on the site and invited the city to participate in a joint planning process for the future use of the site. The city agreed and community outreach began. The partners explored how a number of other cities were dealing with similar circumstances, and a citywide long-term planning process was initiated. Forty community groups were pulled into the process and a plan to change land use of the site from heavy industrial to commercial and mixed use was created. The plan included several types of housing, commercial/retail areas, a museum, office buildings, open space for active and passive recreation, and a multi-modal transit hub. The transit hub would be built upon a berm protectively constructed with topsoil layered over lead-containing soil transported from another section of the Institute for responsible management site.

Discussion about the design and process of redevelopment was lengthy and not always smooth. The local chapter of the National Toxics Campaign was concerned about the effectiveness of long-term protection of public health using deed restrictions and other forms of institutional controls when applying risk-based cleanup standards. The group picketed the outreach efforts of the city. In response, the city formed a toxic substance commission, which spent three years dealing with this issue.

The economic upturn experienced by the area in the early 1990’s rekindled interest in the project after a period of local economic stagnancy in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The city and Southern Pacific Railroad launched an intense renewed four-year planning effort. In 1995 the resulting railroad yard reuse plan produced a tri- party Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) involving the Southern Pacific Railroad, the City of Sacramento, and the State of California. That same year the city was awarded an EPA Brownfields Pilot Grant for the project to help address some of the contamination issues, especially those related to the institutional controls. In 1996 one corner of the huge Southern Pacific Railroad site was selected as the location of a new federal courthouse to hold 380,000 occupyable feet and employ 800 new workers.

Union Pacific acquired Southern Pacific Railroad in 1997, and this ownership and management change, rather than delay or end the important redevelopment work at the terminus site, supported redevelopment at an additional site. The Union Pacific Curtis Park Project was comprised of 66 acres, long in the possession of Union Pacific. The site, which contains heavy metal contamination, is located in the midst of an affluent and politically powerful residential neighborhood that became very involved in determining how property is to be developed.

The City was able to bring Union Pacific to the table to negotiate so that the title could be cleared. When this land was initially purchased by the railroad, the negotiations stipulated that the property would be turned over to city for civic uses after company stopped using it as an active railyard. The Sacramento City Council appointed 12 individuals to a special committee comprised of representatives from the neighborhood, the City, and the Railroad Company, to come up with land use plan. The final plan included residential, low density commercial, and retail components.

Salt Lake City, Utah: Public sector leadership and resources and rail line reconfiguration meet new private sector needs
The big Gateway Redevelopment Project in Salt Lake City, immediately adjacent to the downtown business district, almost in the shadow of City Hall and the Mother Church of the Mormon Denomination, is a brilliant demonstration of how public and private sectors can create a new identity for an area. The area is comprised of underutilized and abandoned former industrial sites, a good number of active industries, scattered residences, agencies serving the homeless, and pockets of high crime

Development pressures suggested that the area was “ready to go.” In 1994 a master planning process was initiated to produce a vision for the area, and the city set out to engage the private sector in making the vision a reality. In 1995 the city tied the gateway to an interstate build project, and the dynamics of potential development helped cut the design build date in half, from 10 years to 5. The city’s redevelopment authority and the planning department conducted door-to-door surveys to determine the status of each site and to engage owners and users of the area in putting together the working details of the plan. This effort included workshops and collaboration with social service organizations and the police department. The city was committed to crafting the reuse of the area so that it improved quality of life and economic viability but did not “gentrify” to the extent that low-income residents and homeless people and industrial functions were pushed out. In addition, specifications for one of the cornerstones of the redevelopment – the new residential, retail, and office space – dictated the use of design and materials that was attentive to environmental impact and resource conservation.

The railroads are right in the middle of the action. Railroad yards, lines, and spurs criss-cross and dominate the entire acreage. (Major viaducts keep highway traffic at a distance and have indirectly dampened the productive potential of the area.) The three railroad companies most deeply involved in the development plans are Union Pacific, Western Pacific, and Rio Grande, with Union Pacific the major landowner in the 650-acre area. Although rail activity has decreased precipitously, 60 mainline trains go through the yards each day.

The city worked closely with the railroads and with the state department of transportation to make things happen. Two of the three main rail lines will be retired and three automobile viaducts will be rebuilt and shortened by about one-half mile each. The remaining line will be designed to simplify and improve operations, overall benefiting the railroad companies. In addition, Union Pacific will loose two railyards: one has already been sold for redevelopment as the showpiece residential/retail/office project, while the city is buying part of the other to construct an intermodal hub. Union Pacific’s profits runs into the millions on these real estate transactions. These large projects underscore the strength of local commitment to the Gateway Area redevelopment as a whole, laying groundwork for the multiple step-by-step redevelopment of other parcels in the area.