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Arden Arcade residents question apartment project

This rendering by Anton Development Co. shows its 148-unit apartment complex proposed for 2134 Butano Drive in Arden Arcade.
This rendering by Anton Development Co. shows its 148-unit apartment complex proposed for 2134 Butano Drive in Arden Arcade. Anton Development Co.

Arden Arcade residents are opposing a low-income apartment complex proposed for Butano Drive, in yet another sign of dissatisfaction with the community’s direction.

On Jan. 27, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors will consider an appeal of a Planning Commission decision approving the 148-unit complex at 2134 Butano Drive, near the intersection of Watt Avenue and El Camino Boulevard. The Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the project, after the Arden Arcade Community Planning Advisory Committee had voted unanimously to recommend denial of it.

When the advisory committee considered the complex, it made a second vote – also unanimously – to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision should it approve the project. Among other things, the advisory committee cited traffic safety – some nearby streets lack sidewalks and crosswalks – and the need for comprehensive planning in Arden Arcade as reasons for the appeal. County officials say those concerns are already being addressed.

The dispute comes on the heels of a similar disagreement over a WinCo Foods grocery store in Country Club Plaza about one block away from the apartment complex site. Earlier this month a narrowly divided Board of Supervisors approved a liquor license for the grocer, rejecting an appeal by the Community Planning Advisory Committee and heightening concerns about alcohol abuse and other safety issues.

Cesar Castaneda, president of the Country Club Alliance of Neighborhoods, said his group is not outright opposed to apartments in the Butano Drive location. The group representing all of Arden Arcade just wants crosswalks and sidewalks installed to accommodate the new residents, he said.

“It’s a heavy traffic area,” he said. “Walking there is dangerous.”

A traffic study conducted for Anton Development Co., the apartment builder, looked at sidewalks around the apartment site, on Butano Drive, Cottage Way and Watt Avenue, and found that for every 4 feet of sidewalk, 1 foot of roadway had no sidewalk. One section on the east side of Watt Avenue ran 1,435 feet without a sidewalk.

But the study did not include both sides of Cottage Way and Watt Avenue, contributing to the perception among some critics that the study was flawed. However, the study was reviewed by the county Transportation Department, which endorsed its findings.

Despite the additional traffic created by the apartment complex, area roads “will continue to operate with levels of service that satisfy minimum Sacramento County requirements,” according to the study by KD Anderson & Associates Inc. of Loomis.

A county staff report cited the traffic study and recommended approval of the apartment project, saying that the “Planning Commission does not have the discretion to deny a project that is consistent with zoning and meets development standards and guidelines.” The report also said that the addition of bike lanes next year on Cottage Way will improve traffic safety.

Despite voting against Community Planning Advisory Committee’s appeal, the Planning Commission shared its concerns, said commission member Eric Guerra. Unlike most projects that go before the Planning Commission, the apartment complex could not be amended to address the concerns of residents, he said. Guerra said he would have liked to require sidewalk improvements.

Guerra said he is still generally supportive of the project, in part because Anton Development Co. has a strong record of developing and managing its properties. Unlike many apartment builders, Anton Development Co. retains and manages its properties.

Rachel Green, a development manager for Anton Development Co., said the company manages almost 6,200 of the 7,000 apartment units it has built. Some of the units were sold after the company managed them.

She said the Butano Apartments will be marketed to families with an annual income of $25,000 to $45,000, and help house the “clerks, receptionists and retail workers who are desperately needed to support the revitalization of the area.”

Castaneda and other neighborhood activists, though, say the apartments are a continuation of the problems besetting Arden Arcade. Castaneda complains about blight, panhandling and an overabundance of payday lenders, massage parlors and other problem businesses.

Those concerns are one reason the Community Advisory Planning Committee has asked the county for more communitywide planning in Arden Arcade. The Arden Arcade Community Plan was approved in 1980 and amended in 2006, when the community was considering incorporation. Some residents think it’s time for an update.

County Planning Director Leighann Moffitt doesn’t dispute the problems in Arden Arcade, but says the county has taken many steps to stop them, including passing a panhandling ordinance (although it is currently not enforced due to a federal court case), and proposing restrictions on massage parlors. The county has also stepped up its code enforcement efforts and spent $38 million on street infrastructure in Arden Arcade in the last 10 years, she said.

Call The Bee’s Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @BradB_at_SacBee.

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