A Little History of ESCA


McKinley Blvd.

McKinley Blvd.

The East Sacramento Improvement Association was founded and incorporated in 1958.  In 2021 the Association changed its name to the East Sacramento Community Association.

Glenn and Sidney Pope and Kay Lobner were among the founding and charter members. They saw a need to preserve and protect the character of East Sacramento.  Certainly, even they may not have envisioned that the Association would be so successful and still going strong to this day.

Mercy Hospital’s expansion plans had galvanized the neighborhood into action in 1957 and 1958. Mercy wanted to expand much further into the neighborhood than the present hospital footprint; ESCA successfully headed it off. However, we could not prevent the removal of a half-dozen beautiful Victorians along J Street near 39th. The parking lot and medical building replaced them. Mercy attempted years later to build the Mercy McMahon senior apartments as a 6-story building, which we thwarted, compromising on the 2 ½-story building that sits there now.  It’s frightening to imagine how out of place a 6-story building would have looked.

Over the years the Association developed an outstanding reputation of successfully defending East Sacramento from inappropriate development. One City Manager told Sidney Pope that because of the Association’s efforts, East Sacramento did not evolve into something like Watt Ave. The Sacramento Bee in 1987 described the decision-making process that the 3M Corporation went through when they decided to relocate. 3M said the final persuader was the charm of the tree-lined streets and the established neighborhoods of East Sacramento, which reminded them of their own Midwestern neighborhoods.

In the 1970′s and 80′s Sacramento only had a few neighborhood organizations and the ESCA was often asked to help other neighborhoods form their own neighborhood associations.

Over the years, ESCA has tackled both big and small issues in defense of the neighborhood. At one point, the owners of the old Rosemont Restaurant (previously Andiamo’s and then Good Eats) wanted to convert it into a huge card room.  East Lawn Cemetery had wanted to develop 3-story office buildings on their grounds. The biggest effort was to stop the city’s proposal to connect Elvas Avenue to Richards Blvd in 1987. This would have added an additional 25,000 cars per day on to Elvas Avenue. If this had happened, the traffic on Elvas and surrounding streets might be closer to an extra 50,000 cars today.  On the heels of that major effort came the Association’s successful battle to head off the Centrage development and its proposed 26-story skyscrapers.

ESCA, however, does more than just oppose projects that would be detrimental to the neighborhood. In 1978, long-time ESIA member Marilyn Mahoney suggested that the Association recognize people and businesses that have made positive and negative contributions to the neighborhood. Thus was born the Orchid and Onion Awards; the former was later renamed the Sydney Pope Memorial Orchid Award in her honor.  These are given annually to recognize ‘jewels’ of East Sac and to nudge others to do better.

The Association led the efforts to rezone the Alhambra corridor, preserve its architectural uniqueness and to limit building height. While this took several years of committee and other meetings, the results were well worth it. Thanks to these efforts, Alhambra Blvd. will never become a Watt Avenue “look-alike”.  ESCA was the first to form a graffiti patrol under the able leadership of Katherine Travers-Cohn.

We are charter supporters of the Pops in the Parks series and the East Sac Room in the Clunie Community Center, which serves as a permanent place to display East Sac’s history. ESCA members Cindy Collins and Steve Cohn had originated this idea.

In 2015, ESCA joined forces with MENA – McKinley East Sacramento Neighborhood Association – itself a successful neighborhood group formed in 1994.  The focus of both organizations had become more clearly aligned and the result is one larger and more effective voice for East Sac’s interests.

Sidney, Glenn and Kay, thanks for having the foresight to form this wonderful association. We have forged a long and successful history and, with any luck, will be still going strong well into the 22nd Century!