Retail construction has begun at Crocker Village with groundwork for a new supermarket and several other retailers despite an ongoing legal battle between developer Paul Petrovich and the city of Sacramento.
Petrovich said Monday that he has decided to move forward with the project's main retail site in part because Mayor Darrell Steinberg has told him he will try to resolve the dispute over a proposed 16-pump gas station.
Residents in the adjacent Curtis Park neighborhood have long objected to a large gas station at the site.
"He told me he can fix this, and he was the right person to get it done," Petrovich wrote. " I have known the mayor for over 20 years and he has never lied to me. I take him at his word.
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"I am risking millions of dollars starting the earth work this week based on that trust and belief," Petrovich said.
The mayor's office declined to say whether the mayor has stepped in to help end the four-year fight. Spokeswoman Mary Lynne Vellinga pointed out that the city and Petrovich remain locked in a legal battle over the gas station.
The pre-construction grading work, which got underway last week, is focused on the southern end of the 72-acre community. Site plans filed with the city show that the developer intends to build four major retail buildings there. Safeway was long pegged for the supermarket site, but wanted the gas station as part of the project.
The Crocker Village housing and commercial neighborhood is on a former railyard between Curtis Park and the Union Pacific rail line. It is linked to Sacramento City College and a light-rail station by a pedestrian bridge over the tracks that opened in 2016.
Petrovich said the gas station is still a must if he is to land Safeway. "A fuel center is needed for a grocery store to effectively compete and be profitable," he said.
Safeway officials could not be reached immediately on Monday for comment.
The City Council in 2015 denied Petrovich's gas station permit request. The developer then sued the city and won a partial court victory this year when a judge said he believed the City Council's permit denial was tainted by bias against Petrovich. The judge ordered Councilman Jay Schenirer, who represents the neighborhood and has a personal dispute with Petrovich, to step aside.
The City Council instead voted in January to appeal that Sacramento Superior Court ruling to a higher court.
Site plans for the commercial portion of Crocker Village show three retail buildings will back up to Crocker Drive. The fourth building that could house a supermarket would sit at the west side of that block, close to the rail tracks. Petrovich has city approvals to grade the ground, bring in utilities and build the retail parking lot.
He submitted permit applications this month to build the four structures. The building permit process typically takes several months, a city official said.
Notably, the developer left room on the property site for a gas station next to the grocery store.
In his statement Monday, Petrovich said he also is moving forward with the work now as well because of supermarket lease deadlines. Safeway, he wrote, "has a deadline to commence construction or Safeway can unilaterally terminate the lease."
Eric Johnson, president of the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association, said he is pleased to see more development underway at Crocker Village. He said he and others hope a supermarket is built - but without a gas station.
"We’re happy things are moving forward on the site, to see some sticks in the ground there," Johnson said. "I think the general feeling is it would be nice to have a grocery tenant there."