A shameful argument in gas station fight

The retail part of Curtis Park Village will be built across the street from the The Brownstones on Crocker Drive.
The retail part of Curtis Park Village will be built across the street from the The Brownstones on Crocker Drive. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

The developer of Curtis Park Village has sunk to a new low in the tactics he’s using to win approval for a mega-gas station in the residential community.

Last year, developer Paul Petrovich tried to scare affluent residents of Curtis Park into accepting his plan for the “fuel center” – with eight gas pumps and 16 hoses – by threatening to turn the retail portion of his development into a cheap strip mall with a warehouse grocer, discount stores and fast-food joints if the gas station loses.

That was pushy enough. But last month, Petrovich resorted to enticing residents of nearby Oak Park with promises of $21.50-an-hour jobs if they show up at Sacramento City Hall and support his plan for the gas station when City Council meets to decide its fate. Indeed, the Oak Park job seekers were told they are being denied those union-wage grocery positions because their next-door neighbors in Curtis Park strongly oppose plans for the gas station.

Pitting the poor neighborhood of Oak Park against the more well-off Curtis Park homeowners is a shameful way to win friends and do business in this city. Tactics such as these should outrage those who live here, in one of the most diverse cities in the nation.

At the Oct. 22 meeting at the Oak Park Community Center, a coalition of ministers ran interference for the developer. After a prayer to open the gathering, Petrovich talked about the money he’s poured into the former railyard south of downtown, about being bullied and about the difficulties he has had in winning approval for the combination gas station and grocery store.

Some in attendance had come to learn about new jobs; instead they were told that Curtis Park was stopping the plan to create 200 jobs designated specifically for Oak Park. The socioeconomic divide between the neighborhoods was cited in comparing the median income in Oak Park with that of Curtis Park.

Framing the argument against the gas station as opposition to jobs for Oak Park residents is an ugly attempt to imply racist motives. Petrovich insists that a hoped-for Safeway will not materialize without the gas station. But if Safeway doesn’t commit, surely another supermarket with new jobs will.

The challenge to the gas station stems from the initial concept of Curtis Park Village as a pedestrian- and transit-oriented neighborhood, located next to the light-rail station at Sacramento City College. The developer changed the plans and added the gas station that can service 16 automobiles at a time.

At one point Petrovich volunteered to move the gas station to another corner of the shopping area, then withdrew the offer. And now he is trying to create economic and racial divisions to pressure the Curtis Park neighborhood and City Council to bend to his will.

The City Council is tentatively scheduled to vote on Nov. 17. Council members should take note: Actively working to drive a wedge between neighborhoods should not be tolerated.