City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

September 27, 2012
Sacramento Council approves use of K Street building for gym

The Sacramento City Council has approved the use of a pivotal K Street property as a California Family Fitness and granted the gym a parking validation program.

California Family Fitness is in lease discussions with the building's owner, developer David Taylor. The building is adjacent to the Dive Bar/Pizza Rock/District 30 entertainment complex.

City officials hope that the gym - which would be at 1012 K St. - will serve as an amenity to attract young professionals and new residents to the downtown area. The gym plans to build a full-service fitness center, along with a rooftop lounge.

September 26, 2012
Clean-up finally begins at site of planned midtown park

Toxic soil clean-up has begun on a plot in midtown where city officials hope to one day build a park.

The highly-visible site, at the corner of 19th and Q streets, has been set aside as a park for years. The city one day plans to build a park and public square there.

City officials bought the contaminated site in 2008 for nearly $2 million. But they didn't have the money to clean the grounds - let alone clear it of overgrown weeds.

September 24, 2012
City rejects plan to revive New Year's ball drop on K Street

Citing security and traffic concerns, City Hall has rejected an application by some downtown merchants to revive a Times Square-style ball drop on New Year's Eve along K Street.

In a letter sent last month to Dale Robertson - co-owner of the Parlare Euro Lounge at 10th and J - city Neighborhood Services director Vincene Jones wrote the proposed event "would not be consistent with the sound use of city resources, and may be detrimental to the public's safety and welfare." The city's letter can be found here: BallDrop.pdf

Jones wrote that city officials met with the California Highway Patrol and Regional Transit before determining the ball drop was too much to handle. In order to pull of the event and the annual fireworks display in Old Sacramento, the city would need "additional security and traffic control resources," Jones wrote.

September 21, 2012
California Family Fitness plans move to K Street

A key property in the ongoing redevelopment of K Street is about to get a tenant.

California Family Fitness has proposed moving into an empty storefront at 1012 K St., wedged between the rebranded K Bar and the entertainment complex that houses Pizza Rock, the District 30 nightclub and Dive Bar.

Several ideas had been mentioned as potential uses for the property, including a sports bar or retail. But California Family Fitness approached the city this summer and plans to turn the space into a gym with "an urban flair," according to a city staff report.

September 18, 2012
Mayors urge investment in transit, infrastructure to aid recovery

Flanked by his counterparts from West Sacramento and Fresno, Mayor Kevin Johnson today promoted investment in infrastructure as a path to guiding cities into economic recovery.

Johnson pointed to a series of projects in the city that he sees as economic priorities, including work on a new downtown transit hub, expanding light rail to the airport and building additional bridges across the Sacramento River.

"We have aging infrastructure and (investing in those projects) is something that we have to do," he said, referencing a July report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors that calls for increased investment in transportation and other infrastructure projects. "We have to make that a priority."

September 17, 2012
Homeless groups to host City Council candidate forum

Homeless and affordable housing advocates are hosting a candidates' forum on Wednesday for the Central City and Land Park council district.

Both District 4 candidates - Steve Hansen, a biotechnology senior manager and a former vice chair of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, and Joe Yee, an architect and former city planning commissioner - are scheduled to attend.

The forum will be moderated by the League of Women Voters and will be begin at 7 p.m. at the Pioneer Congregational United Church of Christ, 2700 L St.

September 14, 2012
Sacramento taxpayer group opposes Sacramento tax hike plan

The county's main taxpayers association has - not surprisingly - come out in opposition to the city's proposed sales tax increase.

The Sacramento Taxpayers Association announced its opposition today to a November ballot measure seeking to raise the city sales tax rate by half of a percentage point. The group charged that the city "has the funds it needs, it just needs to use them more expeditiously."

While the taxpayer group suggested the tax was needed to pay for raises and pension benefits given to city employees in past years, city officials argue the increase will provide a jolt to core services that have been severely cut back over the past several years. The tax proposal is also being floated in the same year the city wrestled increased pension contributions from nearly all of its unions.

September 14, 2012
Sacramento sports panel hasn't repaid city loan, audit finds

The regional sports foundation tasked with putting on last year's World Masters Athletics Championships (WMA) has not paid off a $400,000 loan to the city and may have spent the money on other events, an audit has found.

The Sacramento Region Sports Education Foundation (SRSEF) was granted the loan by the City Council in March 2010 from the city's parking fund to pay for WMA-related expenses. But revenues from the event fell more than $250,000 short of expenses and the loan was not repaid.

A report by City Auditor Jorge Oseguera said the foundation "did not segregate the City loan funds and can therefore not ensure that City money was only used for its intended purpose." The audit found that the foundation - an arm of the Sacramento Sports Commission - spent money on other events during the time it was funding the WMA.

September 13, 2012
Homeless group to unveil cabin model - across from City Hall

Homeless advocates have been trying for years to convince City Hall to allow a sanctioned "safe ground" camp. Now, city officials are about to get a close look at what that camp might look like.

Safe Ground will erect a prototype of a cabin for a homeless camp next week in Cesar Chavez Plaza - directly across the street from City Hall. The cabin will be set up on Wednesday, and advocates will give presentations and tours of the structure the rest of the week.

John Kraintz, one of Safe Ground's most visible members, told me Tuesday night the cabins could be built for about $10,000 apiece. But until the group convinces city officials and neighborhood interests to give them a spot to set up the cabins, the prototype will be the closest thing Kraintz and others get to a "safe ground."

September 12, 2012
Mayor Johnson, Ed Secretary Duncan meet in Sacramento

But will they play hoops?

Mayor Kevin Johnson is hosting a California Mayors Education Summit in town today, with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as the featured guest. Johnson and Duncan will be joined by more than 40 mayors and school district superintendents from around the state at the event in the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria.

Duncan - who played basketball at Harvard and later professionally in Australia - is kicking off his national "Education Drives America" bus tour with the stop here.

September 11, 2012
Occupy, ACLU protest law restricting City Hall demonstrations

Protesters with the Occupy movement, the American Civil Liberties Union and homeless advocacy groups dined on the front lawn of historic City Hall afternoon - an action that could land them a misdemeanor charge by the end of the night.

The City Council is scheduled tonight to debate a new set of laws governing the use of the City Hall grounds. The ordinance would allow protests without permits or fees during the day, but require permits for a host of actions - including noisemakers and signs.

The new law would also prohibit protests between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., bathing in fountains on City Hall property and bringing fireworks, fog machines or weapons onto the grounds.

September 11, 2012
Housing, retail project gets underway in Oak Park

A jubilant crowd of neighborhood residents and city officials watched as ground was officially broken this morning on the Broadway Triangle project, which will bring townhouses, restaurants and small retail shops to a long-vacant stretch of Broadway in Oak Park.

"People said this was a community that was forgotten and could not stand up on its own," said Mayor Kevin Johnson. "And that's not true."

The $12 million development - aided by $8 million in redevelopment money - will transform three vacant blocks on Broadway around 35th Street. That intersection once was the center of Oak Park, but much of it has stood vacant for years.

September 10, 2012
Harvego family donates $25,000 to McKinley playground effort

The effort to rebuild the fire-damaged McKinley Park playground just got a big boost.

The Harvego family - owners of The Firehouse and Ten22 restaurants - will present a $25,000 check to Councilman Steve Cohn at tonight's meeting for the rebuilding. The Harvego contribution stems from a pledge to donate 15 percent of the revenue generated at the restaurants between Aug. 19 and 25.

"Since its construction in 1994, the playground at McKinley Park has grown to be a community gathering place, and the Harvego family is proud to aid in the fundraising efforts to recover from the community's loss," Lloyd Harvego said.

September 10, 2012
Controversial law targeting City Hall protests goes to Council

A controversial proposal to place some restrictions on protests at Sacramento City Hall goes to the City Council on Tuesday.

While a previous version of the ordinance had sought to require permits for protests on City Hall grounds, the law being voted on Tuesday allows groups to protest without paying fees or getting a permit. However, permits must be sought to use noisemakers - including horns and cowbells - and protesters cannot leave personal belongings or use the area around City Hall between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Free speech advocates had pushed to have the permit requirement removed. They are still unhappy with some provisions of the proposed ordinance, which some have said is targeting the small band of Occupy protesters who remain on the City Hall grounds.

September 7, 2012
Sacramento Kings rank near bottom of ESPN's franchise list

Well, Kings fans, at least hockey fans in Toronto have it worse than you.

ESPN's annual "Ultimate Standings" ranked the Kings 121st out of 122 professional sports franchises. The rankings were based on a variety of criteria analyzed by sports marketing experts and fan surveys, as well as teams' performance and ownership.

The Kings franchise ranked last in one category - ownership's "honesty and loyalty to core players and local community." And the team's stadium experience was ranked 121st.

September 5, 2012
Hey Mayor Johnson, where you been lately?

Mayor Kevin Johnson has been quite the jet-setter lately (if you consider Tampa, Louisville and Charlotte exotic destinations).

Continuing a week-long tour, Mayor Johnson is in Charlotte, N.C., this week for the Democratic National Convention. He's a delegate with the state Democratic Party and has been attending many events - including speaking to the delegations from Georgia, Arizona, Utah and Hawaii.

Johnson also spoke to the national chapter of the college Democrats on Friday and has been in meetings with the U.S. Conference of Mayors - an organization for which he serves as the second vice president.

September 4, 2012
Sacramento city credit cards: 48,000 purchases, $9.6 million

It's a lot to digest, but here's the list of the 48,000 or so purchases made on city-issued credit cards going back to 2007.

I waited until today to post the data so that The Bee's data guru, Phillip Reese, could create a searchable document - and so that the data wasn't lost in the Labor Day Weekend doldrums.

City officials have cautioned not to jump to conclusions when examining the records, arguing that some purchases that look questionable - alcohol purchases, trips - actually have reasonable explanations.

September 4, 2012
Mayoral staffer in credit card scandal received $4,700 payout

The former mayoral aide at the center of the city's credit card scandal didn't leave empty handed when she resigned in July.

Lisa Serna-Mayorga received a payout of $4,727.30 in unused vacation and holiday time, according to documents obtained by The Bee through a Public Records Act request. Most of the money - $4,617 - was for 125 hours of vacation time Serna-Mayorga did not use. City spokeswoman Amy Williams said the city is required by law to pay out the unused vacation time.

Serna-Mayorga resigned after it was revealed she had allegedly used her city-issued credit card to make personal purchases. Sources have told The Bee she reimbursed the city $9,000 for the charges, which included a trip to Disneyland, gasoline and groceries.



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 rlillis@sacbee.com

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