JOSÉ LUIS VILLEGAS / jvillegas@sacbee.com

Bee file, 2013. The arch over R Street, near the Fox & Goose Public House, is part of the city's effort to turn the area around R Street into a lively 'culture corridor.'

Big plans for R St. warehouse run afoul of neighbors in Sacramento

Published: Monday, Jun. 24, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Jun. 24, 2013 - 11:54 am

It seems like the kind of project that would thrive in midtown Sacramento. A brewery with patio seating. A small urban winery. A Web development firm. Space for a few more small businesses.

However, a plan to convert an empty warehouse along the burgeoning R Street corridor into a commercial complex has upset a vocal group of neighbors who are seeking to block the development.

It's a controversy that underscores the organizing ability of some of Sacramento's older neighborhoods when residents disagree with a project.

One woman – acting on behalf of her neighbors – has appealed the city Planning Commission's approval of the project. As a result, the proposal will be heard by the full City Council next month.

Another group of neighbors has filed a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court, charging that the city did not address environmental concerns raised by the project. The group – which has dubbed itself Citizens Against Alcohol Manufacturing in Midtown – said the brewery would give off unpleasant odors that would be smelled by children at a nearby preschool and adversely impact traffic, noise and water quality.

City officials said they could not comment on the pending litigation.

Not everyone is upset with the plan.

The proposal to refurbish the former Fred Rader Mill Supply building at 26th and R streets has the support of the area's councilman. The city's Planning Commission overwhelmingly voted to approve the plan, on the recommendation of city development staffers.

Developer Jim Quessenberry, who bought the property last year, said he has interest from several breweries in opening a brewing operation and tasting room. The space would include an outdoor patio and, in an attempt to please neighbors, would serve only from 4 to 8 p.m.

If not for his desire to place a brewery in the space, Quessenberry would likely have an easier time with his development.

But that area is zoned for mixed-use residential, meaning Quessenberry needed a conditional use permit from the city to open a brewery where beer would be manufactured.

That helped open the door for neighbors to appeal the Planning Commission's approval of the project.

Quessenberry said he thinks the space and location work, and that the plans jell with the broader overhaul of R Street, where new housing and entertainment venues are beginning to take hold.

"It's part of taking an old industrial corridor and turning it into that urban core," he said.

And he noted that Revolution Wines is just four blocks away. "It's not like this plan is completely out of context," he said.

Some nearby residents aren't convinced.

Longtime midtown resident and preservationist Karen Jacques, who has refurbished a number of run-down houses near the brewery site, filed the appeal of the Planning Commission decision. She said the brewery plan threatens to disrupt the residential fabric of that part of midtown.

"This is a foot in the door to have a major regional alcohol kind of venue," she said. "That's great in the right place, but not in an area surrounded by residences."

Quessenberry said if the council denies his plan, he will likely aim to open a restaurant and bar in the space – a venue that would have longer and later hours than the brewery.

Those opposing the plan said they are not simply trying to block a development in their neighborhood.

"We would love to have shops and businesses; we're not trying to be naysayers," said nearby resident Shirley Finster.

City Councilman Steve Hansen, who represents midtown, said many neighbors support Quessenberry's plans and that the developer has made concessions to address concerns, including limiting the hours of the tasting room. The developer also plans to build a sound wall on one side of the patio.

"The project is a reflection of compromise and respect for the neighborhood," Hansen said. "It's not perfect, but it also seems to be an appropriate opportunity to reuse a parcel that was blighted."

Call The Bee's Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at sacbee.com/citybeat. Follow him on Twitter @ryan_lillis.

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