City Beat

City Beat: Curtis Park residents aim to keep chain stores out of neighborhood

The residents of Curtis Park are a vociferous bunch, prone to packing City Council meetings and threatening lawsuits. They have a lovely neighborhood, and you’d better not mess with it.

Paul Petrovich is a volatile, opinionated developer who gives tours of his projects in a Hummer. He specializes in Safeways and Rite-Aids, and erects massive, chrome statues of horses outside his shopping centers.

The marriage of these two forces is priceless.

And here we go again. Just as Petrovich is ready to start replacing the former railyard next to Sac City College with homes and stores, some residents of bordering Curtis Park want the city to write a law that could hurt his project.

A petition asks the city to place tight restrictions on national chain stores wanting to open in Curtis Park. Petrovich’s Curtis Park Village is a focus of the effort.

The neighborhood’s councilman, Jay Schenirer, has the city attorney researching the request. More than 200 people have signed the petition, found at

Curtis Park has pockets of homegrown businesses that residents love and want to protect. There’s a cozy cafe called Pangaea that serves beer from around the world. Families have packed the wooden booths at Gunther’s Ice Cream shop since 1940.

Kathleen Ave was sitting in the shade of the back patio at Coffee Garden on Franklin Boulevard last week. She said her neighbors aren’t the type to embrace big chains.

“We’re eclectic,” said Ave, one of the petition’s organizers. “We gravitate toward the independent and colorful, and away from the standardized.”

Curtis Park is charming. But should the city pass a law written for one neighborhood, just because its residents are well-connected? There are worries in San Francisco that low-wage workers are getting pushed out of trendy areas where chain stores are banned.

In midtown, some people see a BevMo opening this week in the former Beat record shop as the start of a chain-store invasion. Will midtown want to ban chains, too?

So far, we don’t know what stores Petrovich is planning to put on his land. He won’t talk to The Bee because he didn’t like a story about his proposal to shrink a planned park in the 72-acre development. Some Curtis Park residents are angry about the park.

We do know Petrovich has said he’s spent north of $50 million on the former toxic site and that he’s made dozens of changes at the request of Curtis Park residents. We also know a video on Petrovich’s website shows renderings of generic store logos in the development that look a lot like the logos for Staples and Old Navy.

This has the makings of another tough fight in Curtis Park. Maybe they should hash it out over a sundae at Gunther’s.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee