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Citrus Heights eyes mixed-use residential options for Auburn Blvd


Auburn Boulevard could be home to residential options in the future, under a plan currently being studied by the city. // M. Hazlip

By Mike Hazlip—
The City of Citrus Heights is conducting a feasibility study to determine if under-used commercial lots along Auburn Boulevard could potentially become residential real estate.

Results of the study were slated to be presented at a workshop held on June 14 at the Auburn Boulevard Business Association (ABBA) meeting, but Economic Development and Communications Manager Meghan Huber said the study is taking longer than originally planned and the workshop was postponed.

With a low turn-out at Tuesday’s meeting, ABBA President Richard Hale said he is considering holding a mixer later in the year to increase participation and allow more residents and business owners a chance to give their input once results of the study are ready to be presented.

An announcement circulated June 7 said the city is planning to share design concepts and standards with business owners community members along the Auburn Boulevard corridor while also seeking input.

“This project will evaluate sites along Auburn Boulevard for design, density, and market feasibility for multi-family and residential mixed-use development,” the announcement said. “The project will ultimately provide implementation tools to the City in the form of objective design and development standards to promote mixed-use and multi-family residential development and forward the City’s goals of implementing the Auburn Boulevard Specific Plan and increasing housing choice and affordability.”

The study uses grant funds from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, according to the city.

Amid California’s housing shortage, efforts to convert unused commercial space into residential has gained popularity, but has also attracted critics — including cities who worry that some state legislative efforts undermine local control.  The economic feasibility of converting such properties into residential use has also been questioned.

“It sounds like a great idea. In a few cases it might be a great idea,” Forbes contributor Joshua Stein wrote in a column last year. “As a matter of practicality and economics, though, it’s often a challenge.”

Stein said converting commercial properties to residential use may only make financial sense if the existing site is significantly devalued. Developers often need to re-work the electrical and plumbing in buildings that were never designed to accommodate residents.

Converting devalued commercial assets in this way also raises concerns over what critics call gentrification, or changing the demographics of an area to attract higher-income residents, often displacing the lower-income population.

The future date of the city’s postponed workshop has yet to be announced, however a tentative project timeline on the city’s website says a design guidelines booklet is slated for release in August of this year.

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