April 1, 2008
No Fooling: A Vineyard in the City

Sacramento Bee editorial writers have asked readers to send in questions they'd like to see the city's mayoral candidates answer. The invitation is here.

OK, I'll play along. I want to know what the mayoral candidates will do about that sorry downtown hole bordered by Capitol Mall and L, 3rd and 4th streets. Actually, I want to know which candidate will be the first to step up and endorse my proposal that it be filled in and planted to a vineyard of wine grapes.

This is the site where two high-rise residential and commercial towers were to be built, but since that proposal collapsed last year the lot has stood largely empty and abandoned. There's a piece of earth-moving equipment in there, scattered remnants of rebar, and tombstone-like rows of concrete pilings, none of which would present more than a momentary obstacle to planting a vineyard.

Why a vineyard? Well, Sacramento not only is the capital of California, it's the capital of the nation's most diverse and prosperous wine country. The city is virtually surrounded by vineyards admired by the nation's wine drinkers - Sonoma and Napa to the west, Clarksburg and Lodi to the south, the Dunnigan Hills to the north, and the foothills of the Sierra to the east. With many visitors arriving or leaving Sacramento via Interstate 5 or Tower Bridge, what better way to remind them of the state's and the city's pivotal role in the nation's agricultural bounty than with a prime piece of real estate devoted to a vineyard?

There are other reasons for planting a vineyard there. It would be educational. It would contribute to rather than take from the city's efforts to establish itself as a "green" community. It would be a natural and equally pretty counterbalance to the grandeur of the Capitol at the other end of the mall. Get the right winemaker and profits from the sale of wines made from grapes grown on the plot could be used to help shore up the city's weak budget. With few tall buildings in the neighborhood, it has just the exposure to sunlight that grapes need. A deer fence already is in place.

Which mayoral candidate will be the first to step up and offer to turn the first shovel of dirt to get this project going?

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