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7-Eleven alcohol license in high-crime area gives Sacramento County pause

Sacramento

Sacramento County supervisors held off Tuesday from deciding whether 7-Eleven can sell alcohol in a high-crime neighborhood, wanting to take a closer look at liquor licenses in Arden Arcade as residents voice concerns about safety and homelessness.

7-Eleven is requesting a beer and wine liquor license for a 24-hour convenience store and gas station it plans to build on the corner of Howe Avenue and Hurley Way.

The board approved the overall project Tuesday, but Supervisor Susan Peters, who represents the area, explained the board delayed discussion of the liquor license to allow for further review of existing nuisances in the area.

She said she’d like 7-Eleven to meet with a recently formed business watch group that includes representatives from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, code enforcement, the community prosecutor and local businesses. She also wants the county to seek public input on its criteria for issuing liquor licenses.

“Given the homeless population changes in the last two to four years in (Arden Arcade), I think it’s important to take (public input) in,” she said.

Arden Arcade residents have been vocal about their frustration with businesses they perceive as attracting homeless people or loiterers to the area. In June, more than 100 people packed a small library room to urge the Arden Arcade Community Planning Advisory Council to recommend that the county shut down a recycling center at the corner of Watt and El Camino avenues.

The CPAC will hear a request Thursday from another recycling center near the Howe and Hurley intersection that wants an exemption from new county restrictions designed to deter people from collecting recyclables in neighborhoods.

Residents in 2014 persuaded the same advisory group to recommend that Sacramento County reject alcohol sales at a WinCo Foods at Country Club Plaza. But supervisors approved the supermarket’s liquor license, citing the need for economic development.

Peters said she would like to hear the outcome of Thursday’s recycling center hearing before moving forward with the 7-Eleven’s liquor license.

“I would like to see what happens there – whether it’s recommended to close or stay open,” she said. “I think that will have an effect on the crime statistics and the nuisance at that intersection.”

Kathy Stricklin, an Arden Arcade resident who objected to the 7-Eleven during public comment, said she was encouraged by Peters’ comments. She said she thinks larger numbers of residents are expressing concerns about the state of the community, and business owners are starting to join in.

“The community is starting to stand up,” she said. “The residents are coming out and saying ‘no more.’ 

The lot 7-Eleven plans to build on is vacant. Historically, it housed a Shell gas station and convenience store, county staff said. A Valero gas station sits across the intersection, which also has a beer and wine liquor license.

In a written statement to the county, 7-Eleven said that the store will provide numerous neighborhood services, including fresh produce, food staples, gas, movie rentals and over-the-counter medications. The company said that it will deploy “extensive” security measures and that it is “well-known for partnering effectively with local law enforcement to deter and reduce incidents requiring police response.”

County staff have recommended that the board approve the liquor license. While acknowledging resident concerns as legitimate, staff said a new building with “high quality design” would be an improvement over the vacant and blighted site.

7-Eleven has agreed to several conditions aimed at reducing potential crime and loitering at the intersection, including using a device that emits a high frequency noise to discourage loitering and increasing the height of walls around the property to prevent people from sleeping behind the building. The company plans to install cameras throughout the store, including over the alcohol display area.

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department initially protested the liquor license because the intersection is a high-crime census tract and it’s overconcentrated with off-sale licenses. There are 13 businesses selling alcohol in a 1-mile radius of the site, according to county staff.

7-Eleven agreed to a series of conditions suggested by the Sheriff’s Department, including limiting the hours during which alcohol can be sold and eliminating single sales.

Ellen Garrison: 916-321-1920, @EllenGarrison

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