Zipline was a hit in Davis neighborhood – until an ex-mayor and his wife complained

The first complaint hit the inboxes of Davis city officials on May 15. The wife of a former mayor was upset.

The title of the message: “New zip line in Arroyo a complete aural headache.”

City Manager Mike Webb sprang into action. Within 38 minutes, he forwarded the complaint via email to Dale Sumersille, the city’s parks and community services director: “Can you please respond ASAP that we will look into it right away to identify remedies.”

“FYI – Joe (husband of emailer) is former Mayor,” Webb wrote.

The subject of the complaint: Recently opened zipline-like Sky Track playground equipment in Davis’ Arroyo Park.

It had cost about $168,000 and was an immediate hit among parents, teens and children in the neighborhood.

Except for Janet Krovoza and her husband, Joe Krovoza, who served as Davis mayor from 2011 to 2014.

They knew what they were getting into in 2000, when they moved into their Imperial Avenue house about 100 feet from the park, a house lined with many sound-permeable glass windows. The children’s laughter. Playgrounds. But this was different.

The “ka-lang, ka-lang, ka-lang” was driving her up the wall. The “clank, clank, clank” stopped him from sleeping at night.

“It’s like hearing construction noises all day long with no hope that the construction project will end,” Janet Krovoza wrote in another email complaint to the city.

“Time to remove it. Sorry, terrible choice to put this next to houses,” Joe Krovoza wrote in an email late one night to Sumersille. In another email six minutes later: “Just asked the police to come out. I’ll keep doing that every night.” He sent two more emails early the next morning.

The swing sliding across the zipline track from nearby homes is similar to the sound of a shovel hitting a garbage can.

The couple were the only household that filed a complaint with the city, according to records obtained by The Sacramento Bee under the Public Records Act. (Janet Krovoza told The Bee that despite the lack of additional complaints, other neighbors have personally voiced concerns to her.)

Over the course of several days, the couple sent nearly a dozen complaints to city staff. Many were sent in the middle of the night, and of those, some received an email response or apology from a city staffer within minutes.

Three days after Janet Krovoza’s first email, and without public notice, Sumersille gave the order to her staff to shut it down and lock it up.

Outrage ensued.

Nextdoor, the neighborhood online forum, lit up with angry chatter. One resident started an online petition that garnered more than 200 signatures.

“If I was Joe Schmoe and I called to complain, the city wouldn’t be bending over backwards” to fix the situation, said Darci Silbaugh, who started the petition.

Janet Krovaza sympathizes: “I’m really sorry that the city responded really quick because they know my husband or me, but I certainly didn’t play that card at all, and I can’t have control over that,” she told The Bee. “What am I supposed to do, not complain?”

After the brief closure of the equipment in May, it’s been reopened. The city has devised a series of solutions for the zipline – rubber bumpers on either end, lubrication on the tracks. A kerfuffle over city firefighters rolling into the neighborhood with a fire engine to close the equipment one night has led to lockup duties falling to the park’s nearby pool staff instead.

In the minds of city officials, that’s where this story ends.

“We think we’ve got a balanced approach with the modifications to reduce sound and the locking up each evening to eliminate use in the middle of the night,” City Manager Webb said in a statement.

But Joe and Janet Krovoza disagree. She said she still wants the equipment gone.

Even the zipline’s daytime use, with its accompanying percussive noise, rings across her yard and throughout her house, she said.

“They haven’t solved the problem,” she said. “It has to move.”

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Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers Sacramento County and the cities and suburbs beyond the capital. She’s previously worked at The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was the managing editor of The Daily Californian.
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