Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg on Friday said he wants benches that were removed from the K Street corridor this week to be reinstalled following outcry from residents who interpreted the move as a way to drive homeless people away from the area.
The city’s public works department removed 10 benches from the downtown mall, a popular gathering spot for homeless people, as part of a larger upgrade of a long-neglected stretch between 7th and 13th streets.
Public works director Hector Barron told The Sacramento Bee that the bench removals had nothing to do with the city’s growing concerns about homelessness. But some lashed out at the move on social media, calling it a blatant effort to chase homeless people from the area. Others said the benches are necessary for elderly and disabled residents.
Steinberg, who has made caring for homeless people a centerpiece of his administration, issued a statement Friday afternoon arguing that the benches needed to be returned to K Street.
“I support upgrading the infrastructure on K Street with bike racks and other improvements that better serve today’s needs,” he said. “But none of this should be done piecemeal. I’m asking that public works put the benches back until they are ready to do a full upgrade of K Street that includes places for people to sit.”
The mayor was not consulted about the bench removals, Barron said.
Barron told The Bee on Thursday that the benches and other items on the corridor were outdated and need to be replaced. The project includes removal of large planters, as well as concrete and road work.
City Councilman Steve Hansen, who pushed for improvements on K Street and was consulted on the maintenance project, could not be immediately reached for comment.