Growing pains assail the senses in West Sacramento neighborhood

Published: Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 - 10:00 pm
Last Modified: Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 - 10:36 pm

The radio stays on all day at Julie Keplinger’s West Sacramento home, not for the music but to block out the ’round-the-clock noise from behind her house. At Mary Mathews’ place, it wasn’t the noise but the low-frequency thrum rumbling through her home that had her climbing the walls.

It took awhile for April Polhamus to figure out what was driving her nuts, but once she did, she had a few choice words: “I think it’s a pain in the butt.”

Neighbors say noise from the trucks and equipment at Saladino’s West Sacramento distribution center in the sprawling Southport Business Park is keeping them up at night.

Residents are firing off letters and phone calls of protest to City Hall. They say the building occupied by the food service distributor since July is too close to homes and the work too loud for nearby residents. And they are concerned about plans for more development at the park within earshot of the neighborhood.

“A cacophony of truck yard sounds,” Keplinger, who lives on nearby Shirley Street, wrote in a letter to the city’s planning department. Squealing air brakes, the chirp-chirp of back-up warning beepers, roof-mounted refrigeration units humming through the night are part of the regular soundtrack.

Like her neighbors, Keplinger wrote, she assumed new businesses would fit the mold of the tenants already there: small warehouses, 9-to-5 offices and retail.

“I work in a truck yard. I’m a truck driver,” Keplinger said. “They built this noisy truck yard right in the middle of the neighborhood. During the day, it’s not so bad. At night, it sounds like I’m at work.”

It’s another case of growing pains for a city keen to attract new businesses and the jobs that come with them without alienating the growing number of residents who call West Sacramento home.

West Sacramento Mayor Pro Tem Mark Johannessen said city leaders consider the potential impacts of light and sound on residents near the business park and the Port of West Sacramento when trying to attract new businesses.

“We’re continuing to expand our base and to look at industries that are compatible with neighborhoods,” Johannessen said. “We want to make West Sacramento a place where people can work and have jobs, but where they also want to live. I think we’re doing that in a rational way.”

Saladino’s applied for a lot-line adjustment that would turn its present four parcels into three, a change that neighbors fear will lead to more disruptive industrial activity. The city notified residents of the proposal in November.

Neighbors have asked for decibel tests, as well as sound barriers to absorb noise coming from the plant. They are concerned that more industrial business at the park will drive down property values and force people out of the neighborhood.

City staffers in recent weeks have monitored the site for potential noise violations and inspected equipment there, said Charline Hamilton, West Sacramento community development director. City officials said they found no violations of city code, but that they will work with the company to help resolve the neighborhood concerns.

Saladino’s officials said they are aware of the complaints and are cooperating with city officials. Hamilton said the park has been zoned for uses such as Saladino’s “for as long as residences have been there.”

The Southport Business Park was approved by Yolo County in the 1980s before West Sacramento’s incorporation. Landing a major distribution center at the 670-acre business park was a coup for a city eager to show it was open for business following the recent recession. Officials from Fresno-based Saladino’s said they loved the location: a build-to-suit facility close to major trucking routes.

“Logistically, it made sense for us and our customer base,” said Chris Chatoian, the firm’s director of company facilities.

Saladino’s employed 150 people when it opened its doors at Southport in July, a boost to a city with one of the highest jobless rates in the Sacramento region.

Combined with the opening of Japanese food manufacturer Nippon Shokken’s 70,000-square-foot U.S. headquarters at the park in August, the city is on something of a roll. Southport is already home to distributors DBI Beverage and HD Supply and a Safeway distribution facility, among other tenants. And West Sacramento continues to expand its reputation as the region’s warehouse and distribution center.

Residents closest to the business park say they understand that new jobs in a still-recovering economy are a good thing. But they say they didn’t sign up for the noise.

Polhamus and neighbor Les Ranger stepped into Ranger’s backyard Friday afternoon. Ranger has a good view of the business park – and the new Saladino’s building – from the backyard of his Sharon Court home.

“That building was not supposed to be that close,” Ranger said. “These guys here, you can hear them all night.”

“We know it brings business in – that’s good for West Sac,” Polhamus said. “West Sac has progressed, but not at the expense of our well-being. We moved here for peace and quiet.”

Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.

Read more articles by Darrell Smith

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