City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

February 28, 2013
Mayor Kevin Johnson announces Kings bid in State of the City

By Tony Bizjak

After weeks of backroom talks, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson tonight announced that 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov has agreed to make a bid to buy the Sacramento Kings to keep them from moving this year to Seattle.

The mayor, during his State of the City address at Memorial Auditorium tonight, also announced grocery billionaire Ron Burkle and the owners of the Downtown Plaza have agreed to team with the city to build a downtown arena.

The mayor sweetened his offer, to be delivered to the NBA tomorrow, saying the new group has agreed to bring back the Sacramento Monarchs women's professional basketball team.

In addition, the mayor said former Kings star player Mitch Richmond would join about 20 other investors from Sacramento, each pitching in $1 million to buy a 7 percent stake in the Kings that is being auctioned in bankruptcy court.

In an often impassioned, sometimes theatrical speech before an estimated 3,000 people, many of them Kings fans, the mayor vowed Sacramento will not let Seattle take the Kings. The speech took on the atmosphere of a pep rally, with many in the crowd standing and cheering when Johnson took off his jacket to display his purple shirt and tie, and then announced Mastrov's name.

"Many across the country have counted us out. And I know we are still very much in this game," he said. "I hope Seattle gets a team someday. Let me be perfectly crystal clear, it is not going to be this team. Not our team. no way."

The mayor also announced that Sacramento businesses have committed $50 million in sponsorships for the Kings over the next five years. "Don't tell me we don't have a strong corporate community," he said.

While he said the Mastrov's bid would be competitive, Johnson did not provide details of how much the founder of 24 Hour Fitness is offering for the Kings. The Seattle group's bid for the Maloof family's 65 percent share is estimated to be $341 million. Johnson said he will fly to New York in April to pitch Sacramento to the NBA team owners group.

"As a city we have done everything the NBA has ever asked of us," he said.

Neither Mastrov nor Burkle joined the mayor on stage during his speech.

In a statement issued just after the mayor's speech, Todd Chapman, head of JMA Ventures, the company that recently bought the Downtown Plaza shopping mall, said he is thrilled that Johnson, Mastrov and Burkle have put together a bid for the team, and said his company is excited to participate. But he stopped short of saying his company had fully signed on yet.

"We are excited to continue our discussions with the Mayor, City Manager, Mark Mastrov and Ron Burkle about how Sacramento Downtown Plaza can be a new home for the Kings' organization," Chapman said. "Our goal has always been to create a dynamic center for the city in the heart of Sacramento, and an arena for the Kings at Sacramento Downtown Plaza would certainly be a fantastic addition."

The mayoral announcements should trigger several weeks of intense lobbying by both Sacramento and Seattle, culminating in an NBA vote on April 18 on whether to ratify the deal the Maloof family has struck with Seattle.

In brief statements issued through the mayor's office, Mastrov and Burkle offered no details about their plans, but said they are pleased to be part of something special.

"This is about building a winning franchise for a winning community.
Sacramento has proven time and again to be a great NBA market," Mastrov said. "As a
longtime resident of Northern California with deep ties to Sacramento,
I am thrilled to be a part of an effort to do something special for
this region."

Burkle said he is "excited about the economic possibilities for the arena and for
downtown Sacramento as a whole. We have an opportunity to transform
downtown into a vibrant hub of economic and cultural activity that
will create jobs and generate a positive economic impact for years to
come," he said.

LIVE STREAM VIDEO: State of the City

February 26, 2013
Sacramento council approves arena financing negotiations

For the first time in the latest effort to keep the Kings, the Sacramento City Council has opened its checkbook and dispatched top city officials to enter into formal negotiations over the financing of a new downtown sports arena.

The council voted 7-2 on Tuesday night to grant its approval of City Manager John Shirey's request to negotiate the terms of a new arena plan that is seen as a key element of the city's work to block a Kings move to Seattle. In doing so, the council allowed Shirey to spend $150,000 on attorneys and arena financing consultants.

While city officials have declined to name the investors they plan to negotiate with, it is widely known that Mayor Kevin Johnson is recruiting 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and Southern California billionaire Ron Burkle to make a bid for the Kings. That bid would be presented to the NBA as a competing offer to the deal the Kings owners have to sell the franchise to a group seeking to move the team to Seattle. The NBA's Board of Governors will rule on the Seattle bid at its mid-April meeting.

February 26, 2013
Sacramento Councilman Fong explains no vote on arena

Darrell Fong, one of two councilman to vote against a symbolic resolution last week expressing support for a city contribution to a new arena to keep the Kings here, explained his vote for the first time late Monday in a letter to constituents.

The first-term councilman said he was wary of supporting the resolution "due to the continued lack of information being provided to the Council."

"I cannot in good conscience vote to endorse a resolution or proposal without knowing exactly what I am being asked to support," he wrote. "That is like writing a blank check."

February 25, 2013
Council will be asked to spend $150,000 toward arena effort

By Ryan Lillis, Tony Bizjak and Dale Kasler

The Sacramento City Council will be asked to spend $150,000 on Tuesday to support the city's negotiations with an investment team interested in buying the Kings and partnering with the city on the financing of a new arena.

In a city staff report released this afternoon, Assistant City Manager John Dangberg told the council that $90,000 of that money would go to Barrett Sports Group, which served as an arena consultant to the city during last year's failed arena quest. Another $50,000 would be spent on "transaction counsel" and $10,000 placed into a contingency fund.

City officials are seeking the council's approval to enter in formal negotiations with a still unnamed investment team on the arena plan. While city officials have declined to name those investors, sources have for weeks said Southern California billionaire Ron Burkle and 24-Hour Fitness Mark Mastrov are in serious talks over partnering on a bid.

February 25, 2013
Sacramento councilman wants to combat bike thefts

Midtown might be the city's most bike-centric neighborhood. It's also a haven for bike theft.

As a result, the area's new councilman - downtown resident Steve Hansen - is asking city officials to start looking at ways to combat what is a major quality of life issue in the Central City.

Hansen's idea is to create a bicycle registry through the police department and city to help keep tabs on bikes. Right now, there are few ways to track stolen bikes. Many owners don't even bother filing reports when their ride is stolen. And when they are found, bikes go unclaimed, accumulating in a police warehouse, Hansen said.

February 22, 2013
Forbes: Sacramento not so miserable anymore

We're happier here in Sacramento. At least according to Forbes Magazine.

For the first time since 2009, Sacramento does not appear on the business magazine's list of America's Most Miserable Cities.

Sacramento has ranked fifth the last two years. In 2010, we were 17th. There appear to be a couple of reasons why we didn't make the ranking this year.

February 19, 2013
Sacramento City Council's symbolic 7-2 vote supports Kings, arena quest

By Ryan Lillis and Tony Bizjak

The Sacramento City Council approved a resolution Tuesday night throwing its support behind keeping the Kings in town and contributing resources toward a new downtown sports arena.

While symbolic, the 7-2 City Council vote to approve the resolution showed that the council is willing to get behind Mayor Kevin Johnson's quest to block the Kings' plan to move to Seattle.

What's more, it showed there is an appetite on the council for providing a city subsidy to a new arena seen as vital to Johnson's cause.

February 19, 2013
Sacramento council committee to debate plastic bag ban today

A Sacramento City Council subcommittee will take its first look today at a possible ban on plastic shopping bags at large grocery stores in the city.

The city's Law and Legislation Committee is expected to ask city staff to begin drafting an ordinance that would ban the bags and place a 5 cent or 10 cent charge on paper shopping bags. The process of approving an ordinance by the City Council would likely take at least two months.

Speaking at a press conference this morning at City Hall, advocates of a ban said regulating plastic bags would have a positive environmental impact on rivers, streams and ocean life.

February 15, 2013
Murals to add artistic touch to K Street as area awaits development

Looking to tap into the city's burgeoning mural scene, downtown officials are seeking entries from artists willing to provide a cosmetic upgrade to a blighted corner of K Street.

The Downtown Mural Project, launched by the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, will result in up to 14 murals being placed on walls surrounding a vacant stretch of the 800 block of K streets, where previous buildings collapsed or were demolished. For the last few years, a fence standing at that corner has been draped with an advertisement for downtown activities.

"The murals on the 800 block are the start of a conversation with the community and a way to make small--albeit cosmetic--short-term changes in the physical environment," said Michael Ault, the executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership.

February 14, 2013
NBA's Stern: Expansion unlikely, 'idea of leaving Sacramento is not a good one'

NBA Commissioner David Stern dealt a blow to the dreams of basketball fans in both Seattle and Sacramento that the ongoing Kings saga will result in teams in both cities.

Speaking to the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen in advance of this weekend's NBA All-Star game, Stern said he does not believe the league expanding is an option. "I haven't heard anything about expansion from our owners," Stern said. "They have discussed contraction in conjunction with the last collective bargaining agreement."

Still, some of Stern's comments could give NBA fans here a little hope as Mayor Kevin Johnson heads to Houston to lobby on Sacramento's behalf.

February 13, 2013
Sacramento sets aside money to replant 'Victory Trees'

The City Council has approved key funding to begin planting between 50 and 100 trees along a stretch of Freeport Boulevard where dozens of "Victory Trees" afflicted with Dutch elm disease were cut down.

According to local legend, the trees were planted in the 1920s with seeds from European battlefields to honor Sacramento residents killed in World War I. The trees stood along Freeport Boulevard near the tiny hamlet of Freeport, but have been steadily cut down in recent years.

On Tuesday, the council approved using $90,000 from Caltrans to start planting trees between Meadowview Road and the southern border of the city. Councilman Darrell Fong, who represents most of that stretch of Freeport Boulevard, was a big proponent of the replanting.

February 13, 2013
Deputy Chief Sam Somers chosen to lead Sacramento Police Department

somersA.jpgBy Kim Minugh

Deputy Chief Sam Somers Jr. will take the helm of the Sacramento Police Department on Saturday as the agency's 44th chief of police, City Manager John Shirey announced this morning.

Somers, 50, is a 28-year veteran of the department. During that time, he has led every major division, making him an experienced choice, Shirey said.

"He's had the whole gamut," Shirey said. "I feel he has the range and depth of experience to lead our department."

February 12, 2013
Mayor Johnson says he's 'very close' to unveiling plan to keep Kings

As he prepares to head to Houston this weekend to lobby the NBA's team owners to keep pro basketball in Sacramento, Mayor Kevin Johnson said he is getting "very close" to revealing the deep-pocketed investors he has recruited to make a pitch to buy the franchise.

Those investors - along with a plan for a new downtown arena - would be the foundation of Johnson's argument to the NBA to block a deal the Kings' owners have to sell the franchise to a group that would move the team to Seattle in time for the 2013/14 season.

Johnson said he is working against a March 1 deadline to secure those investors and an arena plan. That date is the deadline for a team to file for relocation, which the Kings did last week.

February 8, 2013
Fan groups seek to sell out Saturday's Kings game

Seeking to send to the NBA a message that Sacramento supports the Kings, fan groups are working to sell out Saturday's home game.

The game - dubbed "Here We Buy Night" by fan groups - comes at a pivotal moment in the city's fight to keep the Kings. A group in Seattle has reached a binding agreement to buy the team and has filed a request with the NBA to relocate the franchise to the Pacific Northwest for the 2013-14 season.

Part of the fan effort was a fundraising drive that took in enough donations to buy 626 tickets for local kids and their families. The effort raised $9,402 and was coordinated by the Here We Stay fan group, former King Donte Greene's COS Foundation, 3Fold Communications and the Center for Fathers and Families.

February 5, 2013
Kings investors still not revealed, but mayor remains confident

Mayor Kevin Johnson still isn't ready to reveal the identities of the rich investors he's assembled to make a bid to buy the Kings. And despite going past his self-imposed time frame for that announcement, he doesn't sound too worried.

Johnson told reporters today the investors are "doing their due diligence and working very hard" to come to terms on a bid for the Kings. An announcement could come later this week or next week.

The mayor plans to package that bid with an arena plan as a counter-pitch to the deal the franchise's owners have made to sell the Kings to a group in Seattle. Johnson wants that plan solidified by the end of the month at the latest. The NBA will ultimately decide whether to support Johnson's proposal or approve the Seattle deal.

February 1, 2013
A new view of Sacramento - from outer space

Thumbnail image for outerspace.jpgCarlos Eliason was looking for a new perspective of Sacramento. He got one from the final frontier.

Eliason, who runs the Facebook and Twitter accounts for the city of Sacramento, sent a message last week to a Canadian astronaut aboard the International Space Station, asking if he would shoot a photo of Sacramento at night. Six days later, that astronaut - Commander Chris Hadfield - posted a photo of the region on Twitter.

"Sacramento, CA, the state capital - a river runs through it, visible at night from the Space Station," the message read.

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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