Steinberg asks city to examine Arden Fair mall’s ban on unaccompanied teens

After listening to a black grandmother voice concerns about perceived racial profiling, Mayor Darrell Steinberg on Thursday asked the Sacramento city attorney to review a policy at Arden Fair mall that banned unaccompanied minors the day after Christmas.

“We’ll address it,” said Steinberg. “We ought to at least have a discussion, some sort of report back since we are talking about our city kids, about that decision and its constitutionality and whether the city has any role in discussing that.”

Arden Fair has drawn criticism from community members and the American Civil Liberties Union in recent days for refusing to allow teenagers not accompanied by a parent or guardian into the mall on Dec. 26. The mall’s management described the policy as an effort to prevent youth-led fights that have taken place after the holiday in previous years.

Jamie Donley, Arden Fair’s senior marketing manager, said on Monday the policy had been written into the facility’s code of conduct days earlier after consultations with the Sacramento Police Department, the property management team and security guards.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California said the policy violates California law because it imposes a ban on an entire class of people, in this case teenagers. Some patrons also told The Bee they felt the policy was enforced mainly against people of color.

Speaking at the end of Steinberg’s first council meeting as mayor, grandmother Pearlie Barton told councilmembers she didn’t want her grand kids “to go to the mall and feel that they are going to be racially profiled…Why do they need parental guidance if they are not acting out?”

Barton was accompanied by her granddaughter Mariah Thompson, 18, a freshman at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former Sacramento City Hall intern. Thompson said later she came to the meeting because, “we just feel like it was wrong to profile youth for what they might do.”

Steinberg said the city should examine the issue and asked city attorney James Sanchez to look into the policy and any role the city might have in the issue and report back to the council.

Arden Fair has had disruptive incidents in past years. Four years ago, it was evacuated the day after Christmas when a group knocked down a store sign during a fight, causing a loud noise that some patrons erroneously took as gunfire. The mall was also forced to close early in 2014, when a series of brawls broke out.

Similar post-Christmas mall violence has been reported around the country.

Arden Fair is owned in part by developer Mark Friedman, a prominent supporter of Steinberg who was instrumental in the construction of the arena and is a minority owner of The Kings.

Along with the call for a review, Steinberg stressed his youth agenda, which focuses heavily on jobs and internships for Sacramento teenagers.

“What I can tell you is that I know that this council is committed, and I am committed, to a robust agenda that focuses on youth and specifically youth employment,” he told Barton. “The real answer is to provide alternatives to kids hanging out too long at the mall.”

An after-hours call to Arden Fair management was not immediately returned.

Bee reporter Richard Chang contributed to this report.

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa

Related stories from Sacramento Bee