Memo to Gov. Schwarzenegger: Sacramento is no L.A.
The governor-elect has put one of his estates on the market and is looking for a “real” home.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Los Angeles has Rodeo Drive. Sacramento has rodeos. L.A. has a history of gold-digging starlets. Sacramento had gold-digging miners.

Welcome to Sacramento, Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s not quite the City of Angels, but it is the unofficial Almond Capital of the World.

“He’s going to feel like he’s out in the sticks,” said Chuck Brownlee as he tried his luck at trout in Sacramento’s American River.

For some, it is a stretch simply to imagine Schwarzenegger shifting from the movie-star milieu of exclusive restaurants, gated mansions and bespoke Italian suits to proudly middle-class Sacramento, where the actor’s GOP rival during the recall campaign, state Sen. Tom McClintock, happily informed reporters his tailor was JC Penney.

Then there’s the house hunt. Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, have a $12 million mansion in L.A.’s Brentwood section and put their Pacific Palisades compound on the market over the summer at just under $18 million, according to the Los Angeles Times.

So, what might the new governor buy for $18 million in Sacramento?

“HA, ha, ha, ha, ha,” said real estate agent Tony Baccelli. “I think he could buy the state Capitol already. Probably he could buy a subdivision and build it.”

California has a governor’s mansion, but that was turned into a museum after Nancy Reagan declared it a “noisy firetrap.” The Reagans then commissioned an eight-bedroom home, but by the time it was finished, simple-living Democrat Jerry Brown was governor. He rejected what he called the “Taj Mahal” in favor of a mattress and boxspring on the floor of an apartment across the street from the Capitol.

Later governors, including Gray Davis, bunked in a typically suburban-looking four-bedroom, three-bath house. But the Schwarzeneggers and their four children could not live there even if they wanted to – the place is being sold by the organization that leased it to the state.

Schwarzenegger spent his first visit to Sacramento sleeping at the Hyatt. Spokesman Rob Stutzman said Schwarzeneggr is looking for a “real” home “where they can bring the kids and entertain heads of state” when needed.

He is expected to use it a couple of times a week, and like previous governors, fly back and forth from Southern California at taxpayer expense.

There are not a whole lot of multimillion-dollar homes on the market in Sacramento (though the Reagan home is available for $5.9 million).

The prospect of Arnold as even a part-time resident of the capital is creating quite a buzz in Sacramento, a city of 400,000 people situated 390 miles north of Los Angeles, population 3.7 million. The Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau is looking for an Arnold impersonator to jazz up its convention pitches, and expects his star quality to boost tourism 20 percent.

“I don’t think many tourists came to Sacramento with the hopes of catching a glimpse of Gov. Davis,” pointed out bureau spokesman Mike Testa.

Testa has been stung by out-of-town newspaper stories that have described Sacramento as a bit on the dull side. “They paint us as this hokey little cowtown,” he complained. Some of Schwarzenegger’s own campaign statements were problematic – Testa cringed when the future governor promised to “clean up” Sacramento.

“My hope is that after he’s spent some time in Sacramento, he’s going to see things a little bit different,” Testa said. “He’s going to be able to see Sacramento indeed is clean and it’s a very nice city.”

Sacramento boosters have lots to be proud of: Good weather, quaint Gold Rush-era buildings downtown, a bike trail stretching for miles along the American River, which along with the Sacramento River curls through town.

They call it the Big Tomato, in honor of the summer crop. The Almond Capital claim comes from being home to Blue Diamond Growers, the world’s largest tree nut company, though a few other California towns lay stronger claims to being the axis of almonds.

“Sacramento is a little farm, laid-back city if you ask me,” said Ken Webb, manager of the smoke shop El Embargo. “I think the people who live in Sacramento like it that way.”

Here, the waiters are waiting on tables, not casting calls. And while there are good restaurants – a famous political hangout now undergoing renovation is Frank Fat’s – “Closed” signs light up downtown when 5 p.m. rolls around.

There is a Rodeo Drive here, but it doesn’t have much in common with the L.A. stretch of boutiques. This one is pronounced roh-DEE-yoh and runs through a trailer park.

“Two completely different planets,” mused Brownlee.

AP-ES-11-07-03 1436EST

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