Still Going Strong: Catching Up with Phil Angelides

Back Article Jul 1, 2019 By Tom Couzens

Phil Angelides worked in the public sector, “in the field of housing and land use,” ran the successful Sacramento mayoral campaign for Phil Isenberg, and did a stint as chief of staff for Assembly Majority Leader Mike Roos, so it would have been natural for him to pursue elected office, too.

Instead, Angelides went into the private sector, first as an officer of his mentor Angelo Tsakopoulos’ AKT Development Corporation, then as owner of River West Investments. River West’s first major project was developing 2,500-acre Laguna Creek in Elk Grove. By 1989, Angelides had become a force in area land development, with a hand in such projects as Lexington Hills in Folsom, Silver Springs Estates in south Sacramento and Olympus Pointe in Roseville.

In the 1989 cover story, “Phil’s Fresh Perspective,” Angelides talked about the Southern Pacific railyards project in downtown Sacramento — he and Tsakopoulos were in talks to purchase 36.5 acres with an option for the other 203 acres — and a proposed 800-acre “pedestrian-pocket” village that would become Laguna West. He’s pictured on the cover at the historic rail station on I Street in downtown Sacramento.

“One of the things I’m proudest of today,” Angelides said in 1989, “is that, if you look at these new master-planned communities around the region, you’ll find that most of them tend to be fairly income-restricted. In Laguna Creek today, you can buy an 1,100 to 1,200 foot home for about $90,000. Within the same community, you can buy a 3,500-square-foot home for $300,000. There’s a tremendous range of prices.”

(Courtesy photo)

Status Check

Since appearing on that cover, Angelides has been chairman of the California Democratic Party, California’s state treasurer for two terms, a Democratic nominee for governor and chairman of the U.S. Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (which conducted the nation’s official inquiry into the 2008 financial crisis). He now heads Riverview Capital Investments, based in Sacramento. 

He fulfilled his vision for Laguna West, which was annexed into Elk Grove in 2003. “In the private sector, I am proud of Laguna West because it was a path-breaking, smart-growth project undertaken 30 years ago, long before the terms ‘smart growth’ and ‘sustainability’ were in common use,” Angelides, 66, says. The possible railyards deal fell through later in 1989, because the land still contained toxic groundwater and no resolution was forthcoming, according to a story in the Sacramento Business Journal. The Railyards, now owned by LDK Ventures and still in the planning stages, is expected to have a soccer stadium for an MLS team; a Kaiser Permanente hospital; and a mix of retail, restaurants, entertainment and housing.

Riverview Capital Investments focuses on developing sustainable urban communities and clean-energy projects. Its most well-known project is McKinley Village on 48 acres in East Sacramento, between the American River and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. The sixth and final neighborhood was unveiled in March, and the development features public art designed by local artists and streets and parks named for artists and arts leaders such as Burnett Miller, Michael Himovitz, Ricardo Favela and Russ Solomon.

“McKinley Village was challenging from both infrastructure and planning perspectives,” Angelides says of a property that had been pitched for many purposes over the years. “To make (it) a reality, the development team had to construct over $50 mllion in site improvements, including an underpass of the (railroad tracks) to connect (the development) to the East Sacramento neighborhood. From a planning perspective, the greatest challenge was developing a whole new urban neighborhood that would have its own unique identity but be in harmony with and complements the existing adjacent neighborhoods.”

As for the future, Angelides says, “I expect to see an acceleration of urban, infill development which will continue to move Sacramento on a path of livability, vitality, sustainability and economic competitiveness.”

This is the first installment in a five-part retrospective series on past Comstock’s magazine cover subjects in celebration of our 30th anniversary. To see all of our 30th anniversary coverage, click or tap here

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