City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

October 29, 2013
Natural Foods Co-op wins vote for 28th and R store
The Sacramento City Council gave its blessing tonight to a plan by the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op to construct a new retail center along the R Street corridor in midtown.

The plan to build a new store at 28th and R streets had received the unanimous approval of the city's Planning and Design Commission. But that approval was appealed by Co-Op member Michael Garabedian, who argued the design was too "autocentric."

The council agreed with the planning commission and denied Garabedian's appeal. Co-Op leaders said they hope to begin construction next year on a parking facility and finish construction of the store summer 2015.
September 5, 2013
Police begin arrests of Wal-Mart protesters in downtown Sacramento

Roughly 75 people are taking part in a protest against Wal-Mart at downtown's Cesar Chavez Plaza and police have begun arresting some of those involved. Sacramento police had arrested nine protesters as of 5:20 p.m.

The protesters are charging that the giant retail chain underpays its workers and has retaliated against employees who called for better jobs. The protest is one of many taking place around the country.

Assemblymembers Roger Dickinson, Richard Pan and Lorena Gonzalez were expected to attend the event, which was put together by the Organization United for Respect at Walmart, also known as OUR Walmart.

September 5, 2013
Former school board member to face former fire chief in City Council race

Two well-known candidates have emerged for the City Council seat representing the Pocket/Greenhaven and Valley Hi neighborhoods.

Former city school board member and Oakland Raider Rick Jennings announced in a press release today that he would seek the seat being vacated by Councilman Darrell Fong, who is leaving the post to run for state Assembly after one term.

Jennings will face former city Fire Chief Julius Cherry, who told me today he is also running for the seat.

August 20, 2013
Sacramento City Council eases restrictions on 'big-box' stores

The Sacramento City Council eased the city's restrictions of big-box superstores Tuesday night following a contentious two-hour debate that pitted some of the region's top business interests against influential labor leaders.

By a 6-2 vote, the council erased most of a 2006 ordinance that required superstore chains to conduct wage and benefit studies of nearby businesses before being permitted to build new facilities. Complex economic impact studies will also be waived for stores seeking to expand, or open in "food deserts" or some major planned developments.

The City Council chambers were packed for the hearing, with those who opposed easing the restrictions outnumbering those who advocated for easing the restrictions by a 2-1 margin.

August 20, 2013
Sacramento arena supporters want Hansen to not file petitions he financed

Sacramento's arena boosters want Chris Hansen to do more than apologize for financing an effort to derail the project. They want him to shred the signatures his money funded that could send the arena plan to the June 2014 ballot.

In a letter sent Monday, members of the campaign asked Hansen to "not allow these petitions" to be used in the arena vote effort. The letter can be found here: HansenLetter.pdf

Hansen, who tried to buy the Kings this spring and move them to Seattle, was revealed last week as the secret financier of a campaign to collect signatures for a ballot measure that would require voter approval of sports facility subsidies in the city. He made a $100,000 contribution to the campaign on June 21 through Los Angeles law firm Loeb & Loeb, campaign finance records show.

August 20, 2013
Sacramento makes progress against tobacco sales to minors

Sales of tobacco to minors in Sacramento have plummeted in the nine years since the City Council enacted strict rules on retailers, city officials said.

Bob Rose, a code enforcement manager with the city, said that between 8 and 10 percent of retailers were discovered selling tobacco to underage decoys this year. Those numbers are less than half the retailers found to be selling to minors when the council adopted a tobacco ordinance in 2004, Rose said.

Under the ordinance, tobacco retailers must purchase a license from the city to operate. That $370 licensing fees pays for the store inspections.

August 15, 2013
FPPC files lawsuit seeking identity of Sacramento arena vote funders

The state's political watchdog is filing a lawsuit today in Sacramento Superior Court seeking the identity of the funders behind a campaign to force a vote on the city's arena subsidy.

The Fair Political Practices Commission plans to file the injunction this afternoon against Los Angeles law firm Loeb & Loeb, charging the firm has "failed and refused" to report the source of the money.

Loeb & Loeb paid Tulare-based political consultant Olson Campaigns $80,000 on June 21 to pay for signature gatherers collecting petitions for a proposed ballot measure that would require voter approval of subsidies for sports facilities in the city, according to a the FPPC complaint.

August 14, 2013
Sacramento arena vote campaign says it's more than halfway to signature goal

The campaign seeking a public vote on the city's arena subsidy said this morning it has collected more than half the signatures it needs for the proposed June ballot measure.

Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork (STOP) also said it will continue in its effort using only volunteers as it pushes to collected 22,000 valid signatures from city voters by mid-December. STOP also sought to separate itself from the paid signature effort that has come under scrutiny amid an inquiry into who was funding that side of the campaign, describing itself in a press release as "a fiercely independent, grass-roots organization."

Still, the signatures that STOP is counting toward its goal include those collected by paid signature gatherers, said John Hyde, a spokesman for the group. Those signatures were funded through an $80,000 payment to a political consultant by Loeb & Loeb, the law firm that represented the Maloofs when the family struck a deal to sell the Sacramento Kings to a group in Seattle.

August 13, 2013
FPPC still reviewing - not investigating - arena signature money

The state's political watchdog is still in the process of reviewing allegations that the funding for a signature drive seeking to derail the city's arena plan was not properly reported. However, the Fair Political Practices Commission has not yet launched a formal investigation, as a pro-arena campaign group announced in a press release today.

Gary Winuk, chief of the FPPC's enforcement division, said only that the commission is reviewing the case and that no decision has been made on whether a formal investigation has opened yet.

"We can, however, gather information and request compliance during our review period," Winuk said. Winuk previously said that the FPPC would review the case for about two weeks before a decision on whether to investigate would be made.

August 12, 2013
Kings pay city $1.4 million owed from 1997 loan agreement

The new Kings ownership made good on a debt last week that was 16 years in the making.

City officials announced Friday they had received $1.4 million in deferred development fees from the team that stems from the 1997 loan the Kings took out with the city. Those fees were originally due last August and will be earmarked for public projects in North Natomas.

Assistant City Manager John Dangberg said the Maloof family, who sold the Kings in May to a group led by Silicon Valley software executive Vivek Ranadive, had inquired last year about paying the fees back over a 10-year period. The fees were then included as part of the sale agreement the Maloofs had to sell the Kings to a group in Seattle.

August 8, 2013
Kings ask for city's help to buy key Downtown Plaza site

The new Sacramento Kings ownership group has been unable to buy a parcel at Downtown Plaza seen as vital to the development of a new arena. Now, the group has asked City Hall for assistance, with the threat of eminent domain looming as a potential negotiating tactic.

The City Council on Tuesday will be asked to allow staffers to help in the Kings' negotiations to buy the Macy's men's store from a New York-based real estate firm. Under the agreement, the Kings will reimburse the city for all costs incurred through those negotiations, including the property purchase and legal fees.

While describing the tactic as a last resort not yet needed, city officials said they could eventually exercise eminent domain to acquire the property at 600 K St. That step would require City Council approval.

July 30, 2013
Turner Construction selected to build new Sacramento arena

The Sacramento Kings ownership group has hired Turner Construction to build the planned arena at Downtown Plaza, the team announced today.

Turner Construction is the firm building Levi's Stadium, the new facility for the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara. Turner also built the new Terminal B at Sacramento International Airport.

Kings president Chris Granger, who began his duties in Sacramento on Monday, said Turner is "the best in the business."

July 30, 2013
Mayor: Sacramento, Elk Grove should join forces in Major League Soccer push

Mayor Kevin Johnson thinks Sacramento is a great fit for Major League Soccer. He apparently also thinks Elk Grove would be a great spot, too.

Johnson told reporters today that he'd like to see two potential MLS ownership groups combine forces in an effort to lure the league to the Sacramento region.

One of those groups, led by Warren Smith, is the driving force behind the USL Pro squad called Sacramento Republic FC that is scheduled to begin playing next year at Hughes Stadium. The other group, led by former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis, is trying to lure MLS and build a stadium in Elk Grove.

July 29, 2013
Sacramento arena vote campaign escalates with robocalls

The campaign over whether to hold a public vote on the city's arena financing plan continued to escalate over the weekend.

In a tactic not normally seen in off-election periods, a coalition of Kings fans, building industry groups and labor organizations trying to avoid a vote on the arena made a robocall to city voters on Sunday. The call can be heard here.

Joshua Wood, the head of Region Builders, a building coalition that has spearheaded the anti-vote campaign, said the call went to more than 56,000 voters. He said the call was paid for by the groups that are funding the campaign, a full list of whom can be found here.

July 26, 2013
Arena vote campaign: opposition made up press release quote

Another day, another turn in the increasingly tense campaign to seek a public vote on the city's arena subsidy.

This time, it's the pro-vote campaign that's lobbing charges that the other side is misleading voters. Representatives with Taxpayers for Safer Neighborhoods and Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork (STOP) today publicized a draft press release from the anti-vote side that shows a quote attributed to "CITIZEN TO BE NAMED."

Later versions of the press released, issued by pro-arena groups Region Builders and Crown Downtown, attach the quote to a Sacramento resident named Linda Cano. The early version of the release can be found here: DowntownArenarelease.pdf

July 24, 2013
Sacramento making progress on copper theft crime wave

Public works crews and a police task force in Sacramento are finally beginning to beat back a crime wave that City Manager John Shirey once called "an epidemic."

Copper wire thefts of city property have been cut by 40 percent since 2011, officials told the City Council on Tuesday. At the same time, the wait period for city crews to repair damaged street lights has dwindled, from a backlog of one year in many cases to 30-day turnarounds.

It hasn't been a cheap effort. The city has spent $1.7 million in labor and materials costs since 2010.

July 24, 2013
'Inside Out' art project shown today in downtown Sacramento

InsideOutProject_Flier_Sacramento.jpgAn art project that has travelled the world sets up shop in downtown today.

The "Inside Out Project," by Parisian street artist J R, will be at 9th and L streets from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The traveling art installation allows people to take photos of themselves and post those photos on a wall to be part of the growing international movement.

While the project has aimed to support different causes in different counties, it is being touted as way to promote immigration reform in its stop here.

July 23, 2013
Video: Sacramento arena vote campaign worker misleads

A group trying to block an effort to place the city's arena financing subsidy before the voters released a video this week that shows a campaign worker making misleading statements as she tries to collect signatures for the initiative.

The video - posted on - shows the signature gatherer tell a man carrying a camera that the city is raising taxes to come up with its subsidy for the arena at the Downtown Plaza. A tax hike is not part of the city's plan.

That campaign worker is part of a group seeking to gather enough signatures to place the arena subsidy on the June 2014 ballot. Two affiliated groups are involved in that effort: STOP, a Sacramento-based committee, and Taxpayers for Safer Neighborhoods, a political action committee based in Orange County.

July 22, 2013
Plan for museum with mounted exotic animals in Sacramento delayed

The wealthy couple seeking to stock a proposed Sacramento waterfront natural history museum with their collection of mounted exotic animals is delaying the plan.

Following community concerns and issues raised about the design of the project by the city's planning commission, Paul and Renee Snider are delaying a request to buy land for the museum until next year.

The Sniders plan to build a $15 million facility on Front Street, across from the city animal shelter, to house a new automobile museum and a museum displaying hundreds of animals the couple has hunted. The couple decided to delay the project last week following a planning commission meeting at which the project was discussed.

July 16, 2013
Sacramento mayor, city manager oppose Delta water tunnels


Mayor Kevin Johnson and City Manager John Shirey both expressed their opposition today to Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to build giant tunnels that would divert water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to farms and cities in Central and Southern California.

Speaking at a groundbreaking event for a new water treatment plant north of downtown, the mayor said he expressed his opposition directly to Brown during a recent meeting with the governor and mayors of the state's big cities. Johnson expressed concerns over the tunnels' impact on the region's water supply and habitat.

"For us, we want to be good stewards," the mayor said. "I'm going to speak out any chance I get."

About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at


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