Sacramento's kid-friendly neighborhoods become empty nests

Their roomy homes, shady lanes and neighborhood schools attracted families for decades.

But the 2010 census confirmed a new reality in the neighborhoods of Fair Oaks, Orangevale, Carmichael, the Pocket and Arden Arcade. Often viewed as some of Sacramento's best places for raising kids, they are now mostly full of empty nesters and older adults.

Overall, these suburbs have experienced a drop in population in the last 10 years. Not only have neighborhood children grown up and left home, but younger families are not consistently moving in to take their place. They're choosing to live in the newer neighborhoods of areas like Roseville and Natomas instead.

Many in these sleepy suburbs say the changes are fine. They treasure the serene atmosphere and note that they've avoided some of the hardships experienced in faster-growing parts of the region.

Yet, some of those same residents also mourn the loss of neighborhood schools, several of which have been shuttered due to declining enrollment, and businesses that rely heavily on growth.

"There are not many good job opportunities in or near suburbs like Carmichael, Arden and the neighborhoods" along Interstate 80, said Greg Vlasek, a state worker who has lived in Carmichael for about 15 years. "The young, professional families that you'd want to buy into condos and co-ops show no indication they want to live here."

The changes have been long coming. Arden is close to the city core and has been a population center for more than 40 years. The other neighborhoods are second-line suburbs that boomed during the 1970s and 1980s.

The number of children in many of these neighborhoods dropped more than 10 percent during the last decade, even as the number of adults in most of them increased.

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