Environment

Downed trees put Curtis Park residents, developer at odds again

Trees felled at former railyard near Curtis Park, Sac City

Neighbors gathered when crews cut down four or five oak trees at the site of a former railyard between Curtis Park and Sacramento City College on Aug. 25, 2016. Some residents in Sacramento’s Curtis Park community have expressed their displeasure
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Neighbors gathered when crews cut down four or five oak trees at the site of a former railyard between Curtis Park and Sacramento City College on Aug. 25, 2016. Some residents in Sacramento’s Curtis Park community have expressed their displeasure

The cutting of a handful of trees on the edge of the Curtis Park Village development Thursday ignited another war of words between residents of adjacent Curtis Park and developer Paul Petrovich – who have repeatedly battled as he transforms a former railyard into a residential and commercial development.

Neighbors said that when news spread that four trees were being felled at the northeast corner of the development near Fifth Avenue and 24th Street, about 10 Curtis Park residents gathered on the sidewalk.

“It is sad that the trees are gone,” said Michael Rizan, who lives across from the downed trees. “I thought they were going to stay. My question is, if they were originally going to be cut down, why has the developer been working around them for the past two years? It does not make sense.”

In 35 years of development, Petrovich has not experienced such hostility related to a project.

John Cox, a lawyer representing Petrovich and Petrovich Development Co.

Sacramento City Councilman Jay Schenirer issued a statement Thursday, noting the concerns of neighborhood residents but adding that not all trees in the development area are protected.

Inquiries to our staff did not provide any avenue to save the trees from being cut down.

Sacramento City Councilman Jay Schenirer

“The potential removal of these trees came to our attention this past week. Unfortunately, these were not classified as heritage trees, nor are they protected under the city’s current tree ordinance. Inquiries to our staff did not provide any avenue to save the trees from being cut down.”

Schenirer said the city is working to make sure that proper procedures, including pulling of appropriate permits, were followed in the cutting down of the trees.

City spokeswoman Marycon Razo said 11 trees on the development were identified as heritage trees and will be preserved. Razo said permits are required for work on any “heritage tree,” which are those with a circumference 100 inches or more that are healthy and in the proper location for its species.

John Cox, a lawyer representing Petrovich and Petrovich Development Co., issued a statement saying that Petrovich originally intended to keep the four trees in place “so that the homebuilders could determine if they should stay or be removed,” but was alarmed by word that the city was working to reclassify the trees as heritage trees.

Cox also asserted that “the community in whose backyard this project sits includes a small but highly radical neighborhood association, and through the active efforts of Councilmember Jay Schenirer, have sought its demise.”

Petrovich has recently taken steps to disassociate his development from Curtis Park – renaming it Crocker Village in public communications.

“In 35 years of development, Petrovich has not experienced such hostility related to a project,” Cox said.

The tree cutting flap is the latest eruption between Petrovich and some Curtis Park residents following years of disagreements over the shape of development on the 72-acre former railyard between Sacramento City College and Curtis Park. Most of the vitriol has centered on the commercial development that is to occupy the southern part of the project, the rest of which will be mostly residential. Some of the homes have been built, but the commercial development has been stalled while Petrovich fights with the city over whether Safeway should be allowed to build a 16-pump gas station as part of a plan to build a store.

After the Sacramento City Council rejected the gas station, Petrovich filed a lawsuit. Last week, the Sacramento City Council allotted $500,000 to spend on lawyers to defend itself.

Petrovich’s lawsuit charges that the city unfairly refused a conditional use permit for the gas station. It also charges that the city violated his due process rights and didn’t adequately respond to a Public Records Act request.

Lawyers for the developer say the city is doing an inadequate job of conducting its record search for emails concerning the Curtis Park project, including those sent or received by the mayor and council members.

Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover; Bee Staff Writers Bill Lindelof and Richard Chang contributed to this report.

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