Pilot alley projects move forward

The Midtown Business Association voted Wednesday night to kick in $20,000 toward nearly $400,000 in improvements for a prototype alley running from 17th to 18th streets between L Street and Capitol Avenue.

At the same time, a three-unit condo building has been under construction since February next to that alley. Construction workers have created a shell containing three condos and a garage.

Developer Jeremy Drucker is building the alley-front "Stitch" project as a three-year sales model for other property owners and prospective tenants. Facing Old Soul coffee roastery, the project sits at the back of a deep lot behind a house at 1717 Capitol Ave. The building is expected to be finished near the end of July.

Led by MBA President Aaron Zeff, a majority of board members agreed to provide $20,000 toward at least $132,000 in permeable paving stones for the alley. The money will come primarily from a surplus parking management fund, said MBA Executive Director Rob Kerth.

The city of Sacramento’s Department of Utilities has agreed to replace 80-year-old water and sewer lines — work estimated at $181,000. The City Council approved using $100,000 in community development block grant funds for permeable pavers. The total cost to install pavers may be higher, depending on bids, Drucker said.

The nonprofit Alley Activation Alliance, formed by the private committee spearheading an "alley activation" movement in Sacamento, is still seeking $30,000 for speciality items like planter boxes and construction of a masonry trash enclosure that will be built on a leased 10-foot by 20-foot parking space, said Alley Activation Committee Co-chair Julie Young.

The rest of the $391,230 budget is coming from in-kind and private donations,Young and Drucker said.

"We’re trying to put in infrastructure and encourage people to respond creatively to that," Young said.

Cities from San Francisco to Austin, Seattle, Portland and beyond have transformed old service streets into intimate, charismatic spots for smaller businesses and residential flats. For two years, several dozen people have been working as the Alley Activation Committee to initiate a similar movement in Sacramento.

The committee members have identified 41 Midtown alleys between I and N streets they see as having potential for improvements that would encourage alley-front business and residential development.

Before the vote, several MBA members asked where funding would come from for other alleys to be developed and for alley maintenance. Some were concerned businesses or the city would be expected to come up with the funding.

"We don’t want to look to the city for money" for other alleys to be improved, Young said. The committee will explore other options, such as private donations from foundations or corporations, or property-based improvement district funds, Young said.

The question of who would be responsible for maintenance hasn’t yet been answered, but maintenance should be minimal, she said.

"Ultimately, the alleys are still maintained by the city," she said.

The city will handle construction. Work to replace water and sewer lines is expected to begin in July. Surface improvements — installing permeable pavers if possible — would start in late summer. Resident’s water and sewer services should be shut off for no more than four hours at a time while connections are made, Drucker said.

A homeowner who lives several blocks away from the Stitch sales model has signed a contract for the second alley-front residential unit to be built on her deep lot. All three units must be pre-sold before construction would start, Drucker said.

Graphic provided by Jeremy Drucker. Photos by Suzanne Hurt, a staff reporter covering business and development for The Sacramento Press.

Conversation Express your views, debate, and be heard with those in your area closest to the issue. RSS Feed

May 20, 2010 | 7:45 AM

This alley activation project along with the construction of the first Stitch Housing building will be a major catalyst for midtown. When people see how this alley and its surroundings are transformed it will encourage more businesses and people to the area. Congratulations to Jeremy Drucker and Julie Young for all their hard work. In a few months we will have a wonderful new addition to our midtown neighborhood.

May 20, 2010 | 8:37 PM

That is completely possible, and it does offer potential. BUT builders must respect and protect private parking by paying for installation of locked fencing in the rear of existing neighboring apartments. It is disrespectful and insulting that such protection has not been done in this alley. It should be.

Business customers or residents in the new structures should not be allowed to park in spaces created for and paid by tenants of the neighboring apartment houses and businesses. Such violation of private property rights is what is happening in this alley and Drucker knows but doesn’t seem to care. We cannot have that attitude or all projects will fail.

May 20, 2010 | 10:40 PM

where are the dumpsters going to be? How will the not pretty yet necessities of daily life be dealt with?

May 21, 2010 | 7:38 PM

“When people see how this alley and its surroundings are transformed it will encourage more businesses and people to the area.”

These are special people, savemidtown. They will only bless Midtown with their arrival when the alleys and everything else looks like Disneyland. They don’t believe in the “not pretty yet necessities of daily life.” They don’t make trash or need parking — there’s maids and valets for that. They poop Skittles and magical lap dogs clean up after. Recycling is for losers — unless it’s part of Green whatever — and attracts those icky types who don’t have cars or like, houses. Yuk.

May 20, 2010 | 10:59 AM

where can other property owners sign up to have their alleys renovated with city and federal money the way Young, Drucker and Zeff did? do they have to form their own committee?

May 21, 2010 | 7:01 PM

When asked about the location of the trash enclosure, Alley Activation Committee Co-Chair Julie Young responded:

“We have none of those details worked out yet. This is in design infancy. Our next board meeting for AAA is June 3rd and we will assess our progress then and determine next steps. This is a purely volunteer/donated effort. We look forward to offering more updates as the concepts mature.”

Article Author
May 21, 2010 | 7:28 PM

Alley Activation Committee meetings ended, yet the Alley Activation Alliance is now meeting. What’s they dif?

May 22, 2010 | 3:44 PM

“Design infancy” is interesting…kind of reminds me of other ideas put forth that were recommended for immediate action, yet when pressed for details, were told “this is in its infancy, we don’t have details yet!”

It seems like an awfully convenient way to obfuscate and misdirect.

May 23, 2010 | 12:00 PM

Wow! I’d love to get the alley behind my apartment building “activated”–at least to get the potholes fixed and the trash and used syringes picked up. But then I’m not kissing city council butt while doling out crap-ass coffee and annoying faux-hipster attitude.

Oh well…

May 24, 2010 | 9:58 PM

“The Midtown Business Association voted Wednesday night to kick in $20,000 toward nearly $400,000 in improvements for a prototype alley running from 17th to 18th streets between L Street and Capitol Avenue.”

$400,000 – $20,000 = $380,000.

Alley Activation Committee (includes) (MBA members):
Julie Young – Co chair
Jeremy Drucker – Co chair
Ron Vrilakas
Ernesto Jimenez
Aaron Zeff
Greg Peterson
Tim Jordan

“prototype alley running from 17th to 18th streets between L Street and Capitol Avenue.”

Property owners:
Julie Young – 1809 Capitol Avenue (stage II of alley “Activation”)
Jeremy Drucker – 1717 Capitol Avenue Stitch condos on alley
Ron Vrilakas – 1801 Capitol Avenue alley condos
Ron Vrilakas – architect on most of these projects
Ernesto Jimenez – 1801 Capitol Avenue and 1717 Capitol Avenue
Aaron Zeff – 1720 L Street, Priority Parking Lot at alley, President, Midtown Business Association
Aaron Zeff – 16th/17th/I/J St. property, site of second “alley activation,” President, Midtown Business Association
Greg Peterson – 1712 L Street, leased to MBA offices and Old Soul Co. at alley
Tim Jordan – Old Soul Co.

Length of time private property owners met with a roomful of City Staff as the Alley Activation Committee = 2 years.

Number of alleys where Alley Activation Committee principals and MBA associates are primary property owners = 3.

Number of alleys selected, out of the 41 – 50 alleys studied as potential for development = 3.

Number of times during 2 years the committee did outreach to the residents and non-MBA property owners of the “pilot alley” = 0.

Number of Midtown and East Sac streets that are waiting for street lighting and other infrastructure improvements = many.

Number of 57th Street residents who collected petition signatures and received a letter from the City of Sacramento promising that their street would be next for lighting = 1.

Amount of Federal Community Development Block Grant money intended for lighting streets, available last fall, due to the Ben Ali neighborhood project coming in under budget = $100,000.

Amount of Federal funds windfall shifted to “Alley Activation” = $100,000.

Reason given for shifting funds (was): lighting the alley.
(Cohn claimed no Council approval was needed).

Reason given for shifting funds (now): paving the alley.
(This article claims Council approval was needed).

“The City Council approved using $100,000 in community development block grant funds for permeable pavers. The total cost to install pavers may be higher, depending on bids, Drucker said.”

“The city of Sacramento’s Department of Utilities has agreed to replace 80-year-old water and sewer lines — work estimated at $181,000.”

City Dept. of Utilities assessment of need to replace pilot alley water and sewer infrastructure (if not for planned application of permeable pavers) = none.

The public pays for that.

May 24, 2010 | 9:58 PM

“The nonprofit Alley Activation Alliance, formed by the private committee spearheading an “alley activation” movement in Sacamento, is still seeking $30,000 for speciality items like planter boxes and construction of a masonry trash enclosure that will be built on a leased 10-foot by 20-foot parking space, said Alley Activation Committee Co-chair Julie Young.”

Displaced City services on private property leased from Aaron Zeff’s Priority Parking, perhaps? Who pays for that?

Julie Young states that “The question of who would be responsible for maintenance hasn’t yet been answered, but maintenance should be minimal, she said. “Ultimately, the alleys are still maintained by the city,” she said.”

The public pays for that.

“Before the vote, several MBA members asked where funding would come from for other alleys to be developed and for alley maintenance. Some were concerned businesses or the city would be expected to come up with the funding.”

“We don’t want to look to the city for money” for other alleys to be improved, Young said.”

Who pays for the infrastructure, replacement of water and sewer pipes, replacement trash receptacles and maintenance of the “other alleys to be improved” then? Who pays for City staff time? Who provides a $100,000 windfall of Federal taxpayer dollars for each alley’s “activation”?

“We’re trying to put in infrastructure and encourage people to respond creatively to that,” Young said.”

The “non-profit” “volunteers” aren’t putting in infrastructure — the taxpayers are.

Suzanne Hurt comment on SacPress:
“When asked about the location of the trash enclosure, Alley Activation Committee Co-Chair Julie Young responded:

“We have none of those details worked out yet. This is in design infancy. Our next board meeting for AAA is June 3rd and we will assess our progress then and determine next steps. This is a purely volunteer/donated effort. We look forward to offering more updates as the concepts mature.”

“This is a purely volunteer/donated effort.” Except for the part where the City has contributed two years of staff time and resources and the Councilman has contributed $100,000 of Federal Funds. The Alley Activation Committee are getting the taxpayers to pay for unneeded alley infrastructure improvements and vanity projects, to profit privately by squeezing real estate value out of the back of Midtown residential lots, while diverting funds away from necessary infrastructure improvements at the street level. The public pays for that.

“This is in design infancy.” Except for the two years of planning and design, which is dependent on reducing or removing the mundane, basic functions of the alley — including the Dumpsters for trash and recycling. However, they “have none of those details worked out yet.” “In design infancy,” crucial concepts of traditional active alley uses are not yet “mature.”

The Alley Activation plan depends on some sort of centralized trash/recycling site for all alleys users, possibly involving new technology or compaction. It hasn’t been addressed yet, by “non-profit” “volunteer” Midtown real estate speculators, who don’t want alleys to be working alleys anymore — at least not “their” alleys.

Who pays for that?

June 16, 2010 | 4:27 PM

I’m not opposed to activating Midtown alleys, but I am concerned with the fact the Midtown Business Association can find $20,000 for this project and can’t seem to find any funding to provide much needed trash receptacles and maintenance for Midtown streets…even though MBA survey’s indicate that litter is a major problem in Midtown.

For over a year I have been active in working with MBA to address the issue of litter in Midtown. I have even made presentations and had, as a result, a MBA committee formed to deal with the litter issue. To date, no progress has been made. I have formed and manage a Meet-Up group of 40 Midtown residents and friends of Midtown who on a monthly basis volunteer to pick up trash that is strewn throughout the commercial district of midtown (www.meetup.com/Green-and-Clean-Sacramento-Midtown-Meetup-Group/), but we will never be able to keep up with the litter given there are virtually no trash receptacles in Midtown.

What we don’t need is anymore activity in Midtown WITHOUT the means to control the litter that has no where to go except onto the sidewalks and gutters.

July 15, 2010 | 7:48 PM

I agree that the MBA (or someone) should deal with cleaning up the trash and litter in the midtown neighborhood. The Downtown Partnership has a very good program that the midtown should implement. The MBA gets over $600,000 annually from property owner assessments. They are mandated to perform certain functions, one of which is addressing the litter issue. The MBA is not doing their legally mandated job.

Congrats to the volunteer group of midtown residents who voluntarily help clean up our neighborhood but this should also be a responsibility of the MBA.

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