A petition drive to force a public vote on a new downtown Sacramento Kings arena has run into a legal wall from Safeway Inc., which has banned solicitors from gathering signatures in front of its stores.
Safeway last week filed a lawsuit to keep solicitors from gathering signatures in front of the 19th Street store in midtown and other Safeway outlets. The grocery chain filed a trespass complaint in Sacramento Superior Court saying unknown solicitors "entered the premises without permission and refused to leave when asked to do so by store personnel and representatives."
Safeway declined comment on the suit. The grocery chain is one of several retailers that in recent years that have sought to ban all solicitors - signature gatherers, Girl Scouts and others - from their store entrances. The Safeway suit names as defendants unknown "John Does" and "Alpha Companies."
Two groups working on the Kings arena petition drive told the Bee that Safeway attorneys have contacted them and told them not to collect signatures on Safeway property.
Julian Camacho, one of the leaders of STOP - for Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork - said he told his group to stop soliciting at the 19th Street store after he was contacted by Safeway's lawyers. But he acknowledged that it's possible some didn't get the message.
"Volunteers are exactly that - they're independent," Camacho said. "There's not much that control we have over them."
A Southern California-based group, Taxpayers for Safer Neighborhoods, is assisting STOP in gathering signatures, and also has been contacted by Safeway attorneys, according to Sacramento-based political consultant Tab Berg, who said he is advising the safer neighborhoods group.
Berg said the group, which pays independent contractors to gather signatures, believes it has the legal right to do its work on Safeway property, but has voluntarily decided to stay off Safeway property, pending discussions between attorneys.
"We think we have the right to be there" as long as petition gatherers do not impede shoppers, Berg said. He said the group is collecting signatures outside other retail outlets, and is doing some door-to-door work.
Two signature gatherers outside the Alhambra Boulevard Safeway last week told the Bee they are being paid $1.75 per valid signature.
Camacho of STOP said his group has been hampered by the heat wave but plans to approach citizens at Fourth of July picnics. So far the group has obtained "thousands of signatures," he said on Tuesday, but he said he doesn't have a more precise count.
STOP must collect 33,000 valid signatures, representing 15 percent of the city's registered voters, to put the $258 million public subsidy on the ballot. The group has been seeking a special election on the matter, rather than have the question placed on the general election ballot, but Camacho said, "We're flexible."
Call The Bee's Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.