Planned gas station point of contention for Curtis Park residents

Carpenters work on a home in Curtis Park Village. Residents say a proposed gas station is inconsistent with approved development guidelines.
Carpenters work on a home in Curtis Park Village. Residents say a proposed gas station is inconsistent with approved development guidelines. rpench@sacbee.com

Residents of Sacramento’s Curtis Park neighborhood on Wednesday night challenged a developer’s notion that rejecting a gas station would turn a planned upscale retail development into a collection of discount stores, pizza joints and check-cashing businesses.

At issue is Petrovich Development Co.’s request for a conditional use permit for an eight-pump gas station sought by Safeway, the proposed anchor store for the Curtis Park Village retail center. Without the gas station, Safeway won’t locate in the center, Steve Berndt, Safeway’s corporate vice president for real estate, told an overflow crowd at the Sierra 2 Center.

Berndt said it was expected that Raley’s would include a gas station with a grocery store planned on the former Capital Nursery property on Freeport Boulevard. “I have to have fuel to compete against them,” he said.

Wednesday’s meeting sponsored by the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association focused on the gas station proposal, the latest source of controversy sparked by the Curtis Park Village project.

Neighborhood residents have objected to the gas station, arguing that it would lead to major traffic, and damage the quality of life and charm of their neighborhood. An estimated 300 people turned out for the meeting, exceeding the 180-seat capacity of the meeting hall and leaving many to listen to the proceedings via speakers in the hallways.

Curtis Park Village, a development planned on the former Union Pacific railyard, was approved by the Sacramento City Council in September 2010. The developer received approval for 189 single-family homes, 248 multiple-family housing units and 90 units of affordable senior housing, as well as 259,000 square feet of commercial uses. The shopping center zoning allows for a gas station, subject to a conditional use permit.

Berndt said that the grocer’s business model relies on a customer loyalty program tied to its fuel centers, and that Safeway would not operate a store in Curtis Park Village without a gas station, which would be about a block and a half south of the Crocker Drive-10th Avenue intersection.

“Fuel is a good way to bond with customers,” he said.

The comment drew some derisive chuckles from the audience.

Without Safeway, the developer has said, Curtis Park Village likely would have to settle for a nonunion, discount grocery store as its anchor tenant, which in turn would discourage upscale businesses from locating in the center.

Owners of the UFC Health Clubs said they are in negotiations with Petrovich to operate what they described as an upscale gym, specializing in classes and individual training, in the center. But they said the lease would be contingent on Safeway locating in the center.

In an online posting responding to frequently asked questions regarding the shopping center, the developer lists a dozen stores that meet minimum requirements as anchor stores. They include Safeway, Raley’s and Whole Foods, as well as Grocery Outlet, Walmart and Winco.

Among the potential anchors that might help land upscale co-tenants, the developer said, Whole Foods has decided to locate at 21st and L streets, and Raley’s plans to build on Freeport Boulevard.

A shopping center anchored by Safeway, the developer said, would attract co-tenants such as Noah’s Bagels, Jack’s Urban Eats, gourmet coffee shops, Sur la Table, a 40,000-square-foot health club, an expanded and upscale Pet Extreme, a gourmet wood-fired pizza oven restaurant and a well-known sushi restaurant. But a discount grocery store could be expected to attract the likes of Dominos pizza, auto parts and tire stores, a Subway sandwich shop, DD’s Discount Clothing, a cigarette store, a doughnut shop, H&R Block, a Goodwill Outlet, a discount pet store and Hobby Lobby, according to the developer.

Nancy McKeever, representing Curtis Park Character Advocates, a group that conducted a survey of the types of businesses residents would like to see in their neighborhood, said more than 90 percent of those responding indicated support for restaurants, coffee shops and specialty food stores. But 82 percent said they did not want a gas station, she said.

Chris Holm, a representative of Walk Sacramento, a group that advocates walkable communities, said he was concerned that traffic generated by a gas station would create hazards for pedestrians. Jim Brown of Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates said he was waiting to see data on the projected traffic and how it would affect the safety of bicyclists, saying that businesses prosper in areas conducive to bicycling.

Some residents argued that the gas station was not in keeping with the concept of Curtis Park Village as a transit-oriented development.

Representatives of the city’s Planning Department noted that the application for the conditional use permit is still being analyzed, and the planning staff has yet to make a recommendation and schedule a hearing before the Planning Commission.

City Councilman Jay Schenirer said he expects that whether the Planning Commission approves or denies the conditional use permit, the matter will be appealed to the City Council.

Call The Bee’s Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

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