City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

July 12, 2013
Sacramento Animal shelter surprised by plans for nearby mounted animal exhibit

The revelation that a wealthy couple is planning to build a new natural history and auto museum to house their personal collection of mounted exotic animals surprised a lot of people. None more than Gina Knepp.

Knepp is the director of the city animal shelter, which stands directly across Front Street from where Paul and Renee Snider hope to fill a 60,000-square-foot exhibit space with stuffed bears, lions, rhinos, deer and other creatures. The collection would be combined with a new 100,000-square-foot auto museum that would replace the existing California Automobile Museum.

Knepp had heard rumblings about the plan for the new auto museum. But it wasn't until she read Thursday's Bee that she realized the mounted animals were part of the plan, too.

March 1, 2013
City Hall wants feedback on McKinley Park playground designs

The city is just a few months away from starting to rebuild the beloved McKinley Park playground. But before the work starts, city officials want your input on some design concepts.

Residents can view design drafts for the playground at the Envision Sacramento website. The city is hoping to get feedback by Wednesday.

The playground was badly damaged by an arson fire last July. A massive fundraising drive led by Councilman Steve Cohn and east Sacramento neighborhood leaders has opened the door to the playground's reconstruction beginning in June.

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 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.

December 7, 2012
Oak Park farmer's market in line for more upgrades

Once a haven for crime, McClatchy Park in Oak Park continues to undergo a transformation.

The City Council is expected Tuesday to approve funding the final stage of the park's farmer's market. The project would include two large shade structures and electrical outlets for vendors. The $332,000 project would be funded mostly from fees collected from developers.

Construction is expected to be completed by April, in time for the market to re-open for the season.

December 5, 2012
Confused about city recycling changes? Help is on the way

For those of you wondering this morning how in the world you're going to remember when to place your recycling by the curb, the city says it's going to have you covered.

The City Council last night approved a plan to scale back recycling collection from weekly to every other week. And this morning, I've received many calls from residents worried that they won't know when their recycling will be scheduled for collection.

I called Erin Treadwell, a spokeswoman at the city's solid waste division, and she said the city is already working on several tools to help keep residents informed.

December 4, 2012
Sacramento expected to make big changes to recycling, green waste collection

The City Council is poised tonight to make sweeping changes to the way green waste and recycling are collected.

Following the approval of Measure T on the November ballot, city staff is recommending that the council require the use of green waste bins and scale back the regular leaf collections made by the Claw. Measure T, which passed 51.4 percent to 48.7 percent, allows the council to make that change.

The Claw would still make regular leaf collection runs in November, December and January, and would also be available for appointments to pick up bulky items.

November 15, 2012
Poker room given permission to move to Woodlake hotel

Despite opposition from some neighborhood residents, City Manager John Shirey has approved an application by the owners of the Casino Royale card room to move to the Red Lion Hotel at Woodlake.

Shirey said in an email today to the City Council that he does "not expect a spike in either traffic or criminal activity will result from the relocation." Casino Royale is currently located on Auburn Boulevard.

Rival card room owners had also expressed concern with the move, saying Casino Royale could move to create a "mega card room" in the larger Red Lion Hotel. But the owners of the Casino Royale said they had no intention of purchasing the license for another card room and city code prohibits two poker rooms to co-locate at the same address.

November 12, 2012
Cost to rebuild McKinley Park playground after arson: $690,000

The effort to rebuild the destroyed McKinley Park playground now has a price tag.

The City Council is being asked Tuesday night to approve a budget for a $686,379 project to rebuild the play structure, which was torched by a suspected arsonist in July. That money will come from a mixture of sources, including insurance settlements and fees collected from developers.

On top of that cash, city officials said donations collected from the public will be used to purchase materials used by volunteers in the construction effort. So far, more than $100,000 in donations have been made, with another fundraiser scheduled for Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Downtown Ford on N. 16th Street.

October 23, 2012
Sacramento's backyard chicken ordinance turns a year old

Sacramento's chicken ordinance is a year old. And so far, it appears many hen-keepers are scofflaws.

One year after the City Council passed an ordinance permitting residents to keep up to three egg-laying hens in their backyards, the number of permits filed with the city is far below projections.

As of this month, 39 city residents had purchased permits to keep hens. Those residents licensed a total of 102 chickens, according to a city staff report. City officials had estimated as many as 100 permits and 300 licenses would have been purchased by now.

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 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.

August 17, 2012
Ceremony planned for iconic tree being taken down in midtown

A ceremony has been planned for Tuesday to honor the landmark camphor tree at 18th Street and Capitol Avenue in midtown that is scheduled to be cut down next week.

The event was organized by neighborhood groups and restaurants near the large tree, which was planted in 1886 but is infested with a fungal disease called verticillium wilt. City arborists said the tree cannot be saved and will be taken down Wednesday.

The Handle District neighborhood organization, Midtown Business Association, and Paesano's and Mangia restaurants are hosting the ceremony from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on the patio at Paesano's.

August 7, 2012
Landmark midtown Sacramento tree to be removed

A midtown landmark is about to be removed.

The large camphor tree at 18th and Capitol - planted more than 120 years ago - is scheduled to be taken down on Aug. 22. The tree has been in decline for a couple of years and "there's no turning things around," city spokeswoman Linda Tucker tells me.

In the meantime, neighborhood groups are discussing ways to commemorate the tree with a ceremony on Aug. 21.

May 25, 2012
Neighborhoods stepping in to save Sacramento pools that grocery store effort could not

Save Mart supermarkets and city officials worked for months to open six pools this summer through a fundraising drive. But what about the pools that couldn't be saved?

One of those pools is now going to be open three days a week, after the neighborhood association, a city councilman and county supervisor, and the Sierra Health Foundation did their own fundraising.

Both the swimming pool and wading pool at Tahoe Park will open June 19. The pool is expected to be open on one weekend day and two weekdays.

April 11, 2012
Big volunteer effort planned Saturday at south Sacramento park

A massive volunteer effort is planned for Saturday at one of south Sacramento's largest parks.

Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell's office and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are organizing the outing at North Laguna Creek Park, a 22-acre park on Center Parkway in Valley Hi.

Pannell's office said as many as 800 church olunteers are expected. With dwindling parks budgets, the city has come to rely on volunteers to keep parks clean.

April 10, 2012
Hours remaining in campaign to save Sacramento pools

With just a few hours left in the fundraising campaign to save city pools this summer, organizers are still short of their goal.

The Save Our Pools campaign has raised about $840,000, including a dollar for dollar match by Save Mart supermarket. Save Mart will match donations up to $500,000.

If that number is reached, the campaign will have raised $1 million - enough to open half of the city's 12 pools this summer.

April 9, 2012
Update: Fundraising drive for Sacramento pools approaches goal

A fundraising campaign to keep city pools open this summer has gained momentum in recent days, but is still short of its $1 million goal.

The Save Our Pools campaign, launched by Save Mart supermarket, had generated $818,561 in donations and pledges as of 1 p.m. today. That figure includes a match by Save Mart of donations the store has received.

Save Mart and city officials are holding an all-day phone drive today. Donations can be made over the phone at (855) 895-POOL (7665). The pledge drive ends at 7 p.m., but donations will also be accepted Tuesday via text message at 80888, at the Save Our Pools page on Facebook and at the campaign's website.

April 4, 2012
Amid tough times, two Sacramento parks get a boost

Of all the city services hammered by the economic downturn, parks may have taken the biggest hit. But two neighborhoods got a big boost this week that will help ease that cycle.

The city received $5.6 million in state grants to build a new park in the Fruitridge Manor neighborhood of south Sacramento and to renovate McClatchy Park in Oak Park.

The news in Fruitridge Manor was particularly sweet. It's one of the few neighborhoods in the city without a park and residents have been fighting hard for years.

March 19, 2012
VIDEO: Big changes are afoot for The Claw in Sacramento

The Claw may be on the verge of hibernation.

A proposal to be considered by the City Council on Tuesday would call for Sacramento's quirky leaf-collecting machine to be shelved all but three months of the year. At the same time, the city could require all residents to use bins to collect green waste.

First, city residents must repeal 1977's Measure A, which prohibits the city from requiring green bins. The council is expected to place a measure on the November ballot to repeal Measure A.

February 3, 2012
Sacramento's Little Saigon celebrates with a parade Saturday

Sacramento's only official ethnic neighborhood will host a parade Saturday, hoping to market itself to the rest of the city.

The Little Saigon Street Festival Parade is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. and run along Stockton Boulevard from Fruitridge Road to Florin Road. The parade will include floats, music and drum lines.

Little Saigon is a flourishing stretch of Stockton Boulevard made up of dozens of Vietnamese, Hmong and Chinese businesses. The City Council voted in 2010 to name the area Little Saigon.

January 18, 2012
Water scofflaws abound in Sacramento's Elmhurst area

It appears many residents of Elmhurst haven't bothered to look at the calendar - or a thermometer.

Many weekday mornings over the past few weeks, several residents of picturesque T Street have turned on their sprinklers, presumably to combat what has been a severely dry winter. Watering lawns during the week is illegal this time of year - not to mention unnecessary, city utilities officials told me.

Then again, residents aren't the only scofflaws on T Street. The city set its sprinklers to water the iconic parkway that runs down the middle of the street, reports my Bee colleague, water expert Matt Weiser.

January 17, 2012
East Sacramento neighbors save Clunie Center

A new model is emerging for keeping city parks and community centers open as the budget ax continues to chop away at those assets.

Neighborhood groups and businesses are stepping in to do what City Hall can't. The latest example of that involvement is in east Sacramento, where neighbors and businesses raised money and formed an organization to keep the Clunie Community Center open.

Flanked by supporters of the center, Mayor Kevin Johnson said this morning that the movement was "an example of us saving something historic in our community." The 75-year-old Clune Center serves 100,000 people a year.

January 4, 2012
Sacramento hosts polar bear plunge to raise money for swimming pools

City Hall is hoping that brave swimmers will take a plunge into the bitter cold water this weekend to help fund swimming pools in the city.

The parks department is holding a Polar Bear Plunge at the Clunie Pool in McKinley Park from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Adults and kids are being asked to pay $5 to dive into the water.

Money raised through the event - the first of its kind run by the city - will help fund swimming pool operations in the upcoming fiscal year and beyond.

The parks department budget has been hammered in recent years and neighborhood swimming pools have been greatly impacted.

November 4, 2011
Rumor of grave unfounded, midtown development continues

A small development in midtown could have been buried had rumors of a grave on the site been true. Turns out, it was nothing more than a ghost story.

Work began recently at the site of nine single-family homes on a lot near 21st and S Streets. A few months ago, as the project made its way through the planning commission, a staff report mentioned the fears of a neighbor who thought there may have been a headstone marking a grave on the lot that had been removed when the former property owner moved.

Finding a body buried on the land could have tied things up - at the very least, it would have led to a delay in the project as investigators took over. But, at least so far, the grave rumors are "unfounded and work is proceeding as normal," said Maurice Chaney, a city spokesman.

November 3, 2011
McCarty raises money to open George Sim Community Center on Friday nights

Construction on the $18 million George Sim Community Center in the Glen Elder/Avondale section of the city was completed barely two years ago. But due to budget cuts, the center's doors are already shuttered four days a week.

The area's councilman, Kevin McCarty, along with community organizers, businesses, churches and unions are chipping away at the closures.

McCarty and others are launching the "D6 Hot Spot" on Friday. The program will open the community center every Friday night for the next year from 7 p.m. to midnight, giving teens a place to play basketball and volleyball, watch movies and take part in other activities.

October 10, 2011
Rob Kerth removed as head of Midtown Business Association

Rob Kerth, a potential candidate for North Sacramento's City Council seat, was removed late Friday from his post as executive director of the Midtown Business Association.

According to an email obtained by The Bee, Kerth was "given notice" on Friday. No reason was given for the dismissal. He had served as head of the MBA for five years.

"Over the past 5 years, Rob has been a tremendous asset to business owners, property owners and residents in Midtown," read the email from MBA board president Jimmy Johnson. "We are very appreciative of his efforts and commitment to MBA and wish him well in his future endeavors."

October 4, 2011
Space and science center moves forward in Sacramento

We get to report about something good happening for a change today.

The Powerhouse Science Center took a big leap toward reality two weeks ago when it got unanimous support from the city planning commission. Next up: the city preservation commission, which is scheduled to discuss the project tomorrow.

The science center is a planned 81,000 square-foot museum on the banks of the Sacramento River, just north of downtown. Most of it will be housed in that abandoned PG&E power station you pass driving on I-5 as you come into downtown from the north.

September 2, 2011
Protesters march in Oak Park as redistricting saga continues


In what continues to be a political fireball, roughly 100 protesters marched through the streets of Oak Park on Thursday, demanding that the UC Davis Medical Center campus be kept in the same City Council district as Oak Park.

The group included several members of the faith community, neighborhood activists and council members Jay Schenirer and Angelique Ashby. Mayor Kevin Johnson did not attend, but his mother and some of his close aides marched.

The City Council is scheduled to finalize its redistricting plan at Tuesday night's meeting. Part of that plan calls for moving the hospital campus from Schenirer's District 5 to District 6, represented by Councilman Kevin McCarty.

August 30, 2011
Sacramento on the verge of allowing backyard chickens

It appears Cowtown is about to become Chickentown.

The City Council seems poised to approve an ordinance tonight that will allow residents to keep laying hens in backyards. That's sure to please members of the "slow food" movement and those already keeping chickens.

While some residents still have their reservations, one person who has changed his mind and now supports backyard chickens is Mayor Kevin Johnson. And all it took was a chat with one of Northern California's best-known chefs.

August 23, 2011
Tense redistricting debate returns to City Hall tonight

Rarely has an issue with such narrow focus elicited this kind of impassioned response at City Hall.

See the redistricting maps here

But that's the case with the debate over which City Council district should represent the tiny neighborhood of Med Center - a debate that will once again find its way into the Council Chambers this evening. The council is scheduled to take up the matter at its 6 p.m. meeting at City Hall, 915 I St.

At issue is a proposal for new council district boundaries that must be adopted by Sept. 6. Under the plan, District 6 would take on Med Center and its 1,000 or so residents, combining it with Elmhurst, Tahoe Park and other neighborhoods on the southeast side.

August 19, 2011
Backyard chicken ordinance returning to City Hall

The chickens are back at City Hall.

That's not a joke about politicians. After months and months of wrangling, city officials are about to finalize an ordinance that would allow city residents to keep up to three egg-laying hens in their backyards.

The ordinance is on Tuesday's City Council agenda, but likely won't be debated until the following week. If passed by the council, it would go into effect Nov. 1.

August 17, 2011
Olive branch offered in heated Sacramento redistricting debate

Councilman Kevin McCarty is offering a compromise in the squabble over who gets to represent the small neighborhood of Med Center.

McCarty told me this afternoon he's open to keeping the Sacramento Charter High School campus with the council district representing the rest of Oak Park. The rest of the surrounding Med Center neighborhood and the UC Davis Medical Center campus would still transfer to his Elmhurst/Tahoe Park district.

McCarty said the Sac High issue - which has been met with keen interest by Mayor Kevin Johnson's office - had become a distraction. He acknowledged there is "an emotional link (between the school and Oak Park) and I respect that." I have a call into the mayor's office to get their reaction.

August 17, 2011
Redistricting debate attracts heated protests to City Hall

As expected, several dozen people showed up for Tuesday night's City Council meeting to protest a redistricting plan that would separate the small Med Center area from neighboring Oak Park.

Roughly 70 people testified before the council in what was at times a heated two-hour event. The council could not respond to the concerns, given that the matter was not on the evening's agenda and open government laws prohibit the council from discussing issues that haven't been placed on an agenda.

That didn't stop several in the audience from hollering at members of the council for an explanation.

August 16, 2011
The Battle of Med Center: Brawl over tiny enclave continues

Petitions are being signed. Politicians and their staffers are canvassing door to door. Emails accusing the other side of malfeasance are filling up inboxes.

And it's all over a small - but incredibly symbolic - neighborhood many people have never heard of.

Of all the political battles to take place within City Hall the past three years, the fight over which council district should represent the residential neighborhood of Med Center has been perhaps the most colorful. And it likely will reach the next level tonight, when dozens of people from both sides are expected to testify before the City Council.

April 11, 2011
Does the new Second Saturday work?

How did Second Saturday work for you this weekend?

There are some new rules in place for the monthly art walk in midtown aimed at addressing the concerns of neighborhood residents. Mostly, I just noticed more cops.

Two new rules getting some pushback state that vendors can only sell handmade goods and that they must pack up by 8 p.m. The goal is to bring Second Saturday back to its artistic roots, separating the art lovers and families from the young crowd hitting midtown later in the evening.

April 8, 2011
Beware The Claw: Readers defend their beloved steel friend

I haven't found an issue that burns people in this town more than The Claw.

Since reporting earlier this week that the City Council is moving toward a ballot measure that would require residents to use green waste bins, I've received no fewer than 30 angry phone calls and emails from city residents defending The Claw like it was a member of their family.

One guy from Curtis Park left me seven messages this morning. When I called him back, he called me "a rat" and accused me of dismissing the importance of The Claw to elderly residents who can't bend over and place lawn trimmings in waste bins. He didn't want to hear that I am not a member of the City Council and have nothing to do with the big decisions at City Hall.

March 9, 2011
Mayor's office hours: tell him what you think about the Kings

If you've been looking for a chance to tell Mayor Kevin Johnson what you think about the Kings' possible move to Anaheim and the push to build a new arena and entertainment center in Sacramento, now's your shot.

The mayor is holding office hours Thursday evening at the Genevieve Didion School in the Pocket. The event is being packaged as "A Night of Public Safety," but it also seems like a good opportunity for city residents to let their opinions be known on all things Kings.

Those who show up at office hours typically get about five minutes of face time with the mayor.

February 22, 2011
Leaf collection rates could triple in Sacramento

Would you be willing to pay three times what you're paying now to have that pile of leaves picked up from in front of your house? That's a debate at the City Council Chambers tonight.

City officials say that the current rates for the Loose In The Street collection program aren't high enough. As a result, staffers say they may need to triple the rates, to about $40 a month.

If rates aren't tripled, collection of leaf piles for those who don't use green bins would have to be reduced to every other week and rates doubled, according to a city staff report.

February 18, 2011
Would you pay more taxes for a better zoo, expanded arts?

Based upon a 2006 vote and the tenor of public discourse, there doesn't seem to be much appetite around here to fund most of the construction of a new sports and entertainment arena with public money.

But what about a zoo or museums?

That's one topic that could come up on Tuesday when city staffers brief the City Council on a two-year feasibility study of moving the Sacramento Zoo to Sutter's Landing Park in midtown. Such a move "would need to be supported primarily through a regional funding initiative," according to a city staff report.

February 15, 2011
When it comes to backyard chickens, Mayor Johnson doesn't peep

Don't count Mayor Kevin Johnson among those with a strong opinion about whether we should be allowed to keep chickens in our backyards.

At a press conference on Monday, the mayor was asked by Capital Public Radio's Ben Adler if he had any thoughts on a City Council Law and Legislation Committee item scheduled for later today on legalizing backyard chickens.

The mayor's response was, simply, "No."

One of the arguments made in support of backyard chickens is that the animals provide a local and sustainable food source. So given that the mayor said in his State of the City that he wants 20 percent of the food purchased in Sacramento to be produced locally, his apathy toward this subject is a bit surprising.

February 12, 2011
City Hall working on bringing streetcars back to Sacramento

It's been 70 years since streetcars navigated the streets of Sacramento. The city is about to begin the process of potentially bringing them back.

Next month, a consultant team will begin a year-long streetcar planning study to evaluate routes throughout the city. The study is being funded primarily through a $300,000 federal grant from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.

The city is asking for your input during a series of public meetings this summer. Dates will be announced later.

February 10, 2011
Sacramento development might have ghosts

A new housing development planned for midtown's Poverty Ridge neighborhood could be coming with some skeletons.

Nine single-family homes are planned for a lot near 21st and S Streets. Right now the lot is empty. At least we think it is.

According to a staff report prepared for the planning commission for today's meeting, a neighbor thinks there used to be a headstone marking a grave on the lot, but that the former property owner took the marker when they moved.



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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