A majority of Sacramento City Council members rejected a developer’s bid to build a controversial gas station in the Curtis Park Village infill development.
Council members voted 7-2 late Tuesday – after hours of testimony, public comment and debate – to overturn the city Planning and Design Commission’s decision in June to grant a conditional use permit to developer Paul Petrovich to add an eight-pump, 16-nozzle gas station to a planned Safeway supermarket.
Council member Jay Schenirer, who represents Curtis Park, argued it came down to the neighborhood’s strong opposition to building a gas station in an infill area touted as public-transit oriented and pedestrian friendly.
“People are very much against this,” Schenirer said. Five council members voted with him, agreeing a residential neighborhood was the wrong place to put a large fueling center.
They also worried about putting future transportation funding in jeopardy if they added a gas station to a development that was billed as a way to encourage people to bike, walk or ride light rail and buses.
Kirk Trost, an official with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, which distributes federal transportation dollars in the capital region, said a multimillion-dollar grant to build a pedestrian bridge to a light rail station at Sacramento City College was based on the neighborhood’s public-transit-oriented design.
Council members who supported Petrovich – Larry Carr and Allen Warren – said they didn’t understand how so much controversy could attach to gas station in a small corner of a much larger development.
Carr said he didn’t see how adding a gas station could compromise the new neighborhood’s larger identity as a public-transit-oriented development.
“I’m not getting that,” Carr said. “What’s in front of me looks like a good project.”
Besides, he said, the shopping center plan calls for more than 700 parking spaces.
Hours before the vote, developer Paul Petrovich told Sacramento City Council members that he was entitled to a gas station in his Curtis Park Village development after spending $35 million cleaning up the former toxic railyard to build hundreds of houses and a shopping center.
He called his 2010 deal with the city – in which he paid for the toxic cleanup and other improvements in exchange for development rights – the “grand bargain.”
Part of that bargain included the shopping center, he said. And though the plan for Curtis Park Village didn’t include a gas station until earlier this year, Petrovich said it was perfectly legitimate for the planned Safeway grocery store at the site to have a gas station.
“I’m exercising my right under the grand bargain,” Petrovich told council members in a meeting Tuesday night that drew an overflow crowd of hundreds of residents who supported or opposed the gas station.
A Safeway representative said the gas station is economically necessary for the new store to survive long term.
“In this particular project it’s an absolute must,” Safeway’s Todd Paradis told the council.
Opponents of the gas station from the Curtis Park neighborhood said they welcomed the Safeway but not a gas station, which they said was incompatible with the “green, sustainable” aesthetic of urban infill.
“A gas station simply does not belong in what was touted as an urban infill development,” said Eric Johnson, president of the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association.
He cited a number of other newer Safeway stores in cities such as Petaluma that do not include gas stations. Paradis said Safeway was still seeking to build a gas station in Petaluma.
With large numbers of people testifying, council members voted close to midnight.
The city’s Planning and Design Commission approved the 16-nozzle gas station in June by a vote of 8-3 after hours of debate.
The Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association, which represents the neighboring community of Curtis Park, appealed the decision to the City Council.
In the meantime, Petrovich and Safeway submitted an updated plan to the city that proposed moving the gas station away from the development’s new housing and nearer to busy Sutterville Road. They also said they would start out with only 12 nozzles instead of 16.
The neighborhood association continued to oppose the gas station, saying it didn’t fit the concept of project geared toward walking, biking and public transportation, including a light-rail stop at adjacent Sacramento City College. A pedestrian bridge to be installed later this week will connect the new neighborhood with the light-rail stop.
The association also pointed out there are no shortage of nearby gas stations, including in several areas bordering the rectangular Curtis Park neighborhood.
Petrovich has repeatedly said he spent more than a decade and tens of millions of dollars cleaning up the former toxic railyard off Sutterville Road in anticipation of building more than 500 homes and 230,000 square feet of retail space.
Numerous disputes arose between Petrovich and neighbors along the way.
A community meeting last month inflamed the latest tiff over the gas station.
At the Oak Park Community Center on Oct. 22, Petrovich suggested that residents of wealthier Curtis Park were keeping jobs from their poorer neighbors in Oak Park by blocking the gas station, attendees said.
Many at Tuesday’s meeting arrived to advocate for the 200 new jobs Safeway would bring, but Johnson said those jobs weren’t dependent on building a gas station.
None of the council members seemed to accept the argument that jobs would be lost without a gas station.
“I think the falsehood here is that it’s 200 jobs or not 200 jobs,” said Councilwoman Angelique Ashby.