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Sacramento plans to rename these two parks after Ali Youssefi, LeVar Burton

LeVar Burton talks about his Sacramento star

Actor LeVar Burton, Eagles band member Timothy B. Schmit, breast cancer specialist Dr. Ernie Bodai, Olympic swimmer Debbie Meyer and painter Gregory Kondos were honored on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, with stars in concrete on an L Street sidewalk.
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Actor LeVar Burton, Eagles band member Timothy B. Schmit, breast cancer specialist Dr. Ernie Bodai, Olympic swimmer Debbie Meyer and painter Gregory Kondos were honored on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, with stars in concrete on an L Street sidewalk.

Sacramento officials plan to rename two city parks to honor late developer Ali Youssefi and actor LeVar Burton.

The city’s parks commission Thursday recommended the city rename Richfield Park in Meadowview to LeVar Burton Park and rename Saint Rose of Lima Park downtown to Ali Youssefi Square.

The half-acre Saint Rose of Lima Park, at the corner of 7th and K streets, features a seasonal ice rink and stage. It was named after Saint Rose of Lima because it was the home of a prominent Catholic church during the mid-1800s, Brianna Moland, an assistant planner for the city, told the committee during a meeting Thursday.

The vision is for the renamed park to resemble public squares in Great Britain, “where people can come, they can share ideas, they can debate, they can enjoy,” said City Councilman Steve Hansen, who represents downtown.

Youssefi was involved in several notable developments in downtown’s resurgence before he died in March after a battle with cancer at age 35.

“He was a renaissance man,” Hansen said. “He was really the epitome of Sacramento in so many ways. To have lost him young reminds us we all have this responsibility now to carry on his legacy.”

Youssefi focused on building high-quality affordable housing, especially in the central city. He played a large role in the development of the Warehouse Artists Lofts on R Street, the redevelopment of the 700 block of K Street and apartments on the 800 block of K Street.

“His goal was to allow Sacramento residents to live as close as possible to their place of work,” Moland said.

If the name change is approved, an “Ali Youseffi Square” sign would be installed, as well as a plaque about Saint Rose of Lima, Moland said.

Richfield Park

The recently-upgraded 3-acre Richfield Park, south of Meadowview Road and east of the I-5, features basketball courts, a turf amphitheater, picnic area with shade canopy, nature-themed playground and fitness stations.

LeVar Burton moved to south Sacramento when he was 3 years old, Moland said. He attended Christian Brothers High School in the 1970s, then went to the University of Southern California on a drama scholarship.

Burton starred in the award-winning 1977 miniseries “Roots,” played Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in “Star Trek,” and also hosted the long-running children’s series “Reading Rainbow” on PBS.

“He’s always been proud of his Sacramento roots and he continues to use his career and his influence to be a strong advocate for literacy for children,” Moland said.

Commissioner Chinua Rhodes, of south Sacramento, supported the renaming.

“I really am happy to see somebody, especially somebody of color, coming out of the south area in such a positive way who’s made a great impact,” Rhodes said.

The park was named Richfield Park because that’s the name of the road just south of the park, Moland said.

Both name changes will require City Council approval. Hansen said he hopes the council can vote next month to approve Ali Youssefi Square, timed with the one-year anniversary of his death.

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Theresa Clift covers Sacramento City Hall. Before joining The Bee in 2018, she worked as a local government reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Daily Press in Virginia and the Wausau Daily Herald in Wisconsin. She grew up in Michigan and graduated from Central Michigan University.
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