Florin Road is highly dependent on retail. For years, shopping centers and auto dealers dotted the two-mile area of southern Sacramento. Now, the community is going through a transition – and it’s a struggle.
It’s lunchtime at La Mision Restaurant on Florin Road. Meats and vegetables sizzle in the kitchen as a chef hustles out plates of Mexican food. But business is slow today – as it was yesterday – as it’s been for the last couple of years.
Garnica: “This is noon? This is noon, right now. This is pretty sad.”
Raquel Garnica’s family has owned La Mision for 38 years. She sits at a corner table and looks out at a room with only a handful of occupied tables. The other dining rooms are empty.
Garnica: “This restaurant used to be full at lunchtime. We count on lunchtime for revenue. And we’re lucky if we get one side full.”
Revenues are down 30 percent from a few years ago. And Garnica says La Mision isn’t the only business in the area struggling. The other day, she drove down Florin Road and saw one empty storefront after another.
Garnica: “And I just started counting the buildings. One, two, three, four. And when I started getting past 10, I said, this is insane! This is crazy!”
Starting at 30th Street, she drove east for about two miles, leaving the city limits at Franklin Boulevard, then passing over Highway 99 before ending at Stockton Boulevard. Her final total?
Garnica: “I wanna say about 22.”
Garnica blames the recession. But she also blames local officials for letting her neighborhood struggle. Immigrant day laborers idle in front of her restaurant, hoping to get work from contractors visiting the Home Depot next door. And she’s seen an increase in homeless people and prostitution.
Garnica: “It’s a domino effect. It’s awful. And nobody’s doing anything about it because this has been going on for the past three years.”
Across the street from La Mision is the Southgate Plaza shopping center. Its two biggest storefronts are empty, as are many smaller ones. Larry Carr is with the Florin Road Partnership, the neighborhood’s business improvement district.
Carr: “The center’s struggling now.”
But he says Southgate and the entire corridor are going through a transition.
Carr: “As long as we have the fundamentals in place – we’re six miles from downtown, the nearest shopping is at Arden for big box retail – we think we’re really in a good position when the economy improves to bounce back.”
Sure, the recession has hurt, Carr says. But it’s not the only factor. A few years ago, several auto dealers moved south to the Elk Grove Auto Mall. And while Southgate might be struggling, the revamped Florin Towne Center on the other side of Highway 99 is beginning to thrive.
Carr: “I think if you compare the vacancy rate on Florin Road with other commercial corridors in the city and the county, you’ll see we come out favorably.”
Carr also points to the prime-but-vacant real estate where the auto dealers used to be. The city of Sacramento wants to transform it into a major development with housing, retail and office space.
Supervisor Jimmee Yee: “I’d like to make a motion to approve the Florin Road PBID annual report …”
Just last week, Sacramento County supervisors approved the Florin Road Partnership’s right to assess a special tax on businesses in the district for another year.
Supervisor Roger Dickinson: “Chair will second the motion by Mr. Yee. Please vote.”
Clerk to the Board: “Unanimous vote.”
Supervisor Jimmee Yee represents the neighborhood.
Yee: “It's night and day from where it was. I see a bright future in the years to come.”
In an interview before the meeting, Yee said he sympathizes with restaurant owners like the Garnica family, but says restaurants throughout the city have suffered the past few years. The supervisor calls the Elk Grove Auto Mall and the recession a “deadly” combination, but he’s optimistic about Florin’s ability to bounce back.
Yee: “Hopefully, within a year and a half to two years that I’m looking at. Redevelopment takes a lot longer. And so I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Yee and the Florin Road Partnership are waiting for a consultant hired by the city and county to complete a Joint Vision plan for the area. The study will include potential funding sources for improving the corridor and recommendations on how to spend them. It’s been four years in the making, slowed by bureaucratic delays – but the consultant hopes to release it by the end of the year.