Sacramento should encourage more infill development, but these projects need to fit as seamlessly as possible with established neighborhoods. Unfortunately, that ideal has long been a matter of dispute for a mixed-use project being built on 72 acres next to Curtis Park.
The latest fight is over a proposed fuel center. Because a gas station was not part of the original bargain between developer and neighborhood, city officials should ask some hard questions before deciding whether to allow it.
The Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association is adamantly opposed. It told city planners that a gas station is “fundamentally inconsistent” with the approved development guidelines, and that the area already has plenty of nearby gas stations.
The way the developer is portraying the situation, however, Curtis Park residents could face a tough decision – a Safeway with gas pumps, or a smaller discount grocer, either of which could increase traffic from well outside the neighborhood.
Neighborhood association President Eric Johnson won’t speculate about potential choices down the line. For now, residents want more answers and hope to get them at a community meeting Jan. 28.
The supermarket anchors the retail portion of Curtis Park Village, which will also include single-family homes, apartments and commercial space. The half-acre gas center – eight pumps with dispensers on both sides – is proposed on a corner of the supermarket site, along what is to be the village’s main street.
While a gas station is allowed under the zoning granted in 2010 and site plan approved by the city in 2012, it wasn’t specifically proposed as part of the project until an application for the required conditional-use permit was filed last August.
Though described in the permit application as a “neighborhood fuel center,” it will likely draw Safeway shoppers from beyond Curtis Park who qualify for discount gas as part of a customer loyalty program. Representatives for developer Paul Petrovich, however, say that the grocer will likely attract customers from an even wider area.
City Councilman Jay Schenirer, who represents Curtis Park, confirms that a Safeway executive told him Jan. 8 that it won’t go into the development without the gas pumps. Petrovich Development Co. says Safeway is the only full-service union grocer interested, so the backup plan is a smaller Grocery Outlet.
But that means an upscale health club wouldn’t open and could lead to less desirable tenants in the other retail space, according to a Q&A released Friday by Petrovich Development.
Under the current proposal, the self-service gas station would be open 24 hours, while a kiosk selling motor oil, drinks and snacks would close overnight. There could be some give-and-take on the station’s hours and lighting. The developer says Safeway is willing to limit hours to 6 a.m.-10 p.m.
The neighborhood association’s president says while compromise is possible, it can’t happen until the proposal is fully known and only if both sides are negotiating in good faith.
Trust has been elusive.
Petrovich has devoted more than a decade on the $200 million-plus project, and spent $30 million cleaning up the former railyard, wedged between Curtis Park and Sacramento City College. Residential construction started last year on what he calls his legacy project, but one that has caused him immense frustration.
Residents are unhappy that since the 2012 approval, Petrovich has proposed more changes to the project. The most controversial, which is on hold, would be to reduce the size of the village park to deal with drainage issues.
After the Jan. 28 neighborhood meeting, the permit application is expected to go to the Planning Commission in February. Its decision will almost certainly be appealed to the City Council.
Ideally, Petrovich and neighborhood association leaders will reach a reasonable deal for City Hall’s blessing. Given the history, that seems like a long shot.