City, residents discuss Second Saturday, nightlife
The city is addressing concerns about the Second Saturday Art Walk, Midtown nightlife and safety from a variety of angles, city officials said Monday night.
During a meeting with the Neighborhood Advisory Group, City Councilman Steve Cohn and city staff from neighborhood services, police, parks, parking enforcement and community development discussed efforts to combat gang violence and other crime, rule changes taking effect for Second Saturday next month and parking issues.
The measures are a first step toward tackling growing or ongoing problems that have been pinpointed by residents, businesses and the city. However, more steps may be taken down the road if needed, Vincene Jones, director of the city’s Neighborhood Services Division, told about 45 people gathered at Hart Senior Center at 27th and I streets.
"Nothing is set in stone. We can make adjustments as we go," she said. "We know we have to start somewhere."
Concerns about Second Saturday and nightlife were thrown into the spotlight last September after a suspected gang member shot and killed someone standing on a sidewalk outside a bar during a gang confrontation. The victim, Victor Hugo Perez Zavala, and two of the three others injured in the shooting after a Second Saturday Art Walk were not tied to either gang.
Even before the shooting, some people had become concerned about the growing crowds gathering in Midtown on Second Saturdays, the increasing numbers of teens staying out after curfew on those nights and a rise in crimes, parking conflicts and other issues.
Galleries and art groups have worried the event has lost its focus on art.
Cohn pointed out that the art walk isn’t an event officially put on by the city. Rather, it’s grown from an art event started by art galleries to include restaurants and other businesses, individual vendors, musicians and other street performers.
However, the city’s Second Saturday safety team has been meeting since the shooting to consider changes to make the art walk safe, reduce problems with crowds and traffic, and minimize the impact on residential neighborhoods, Cohn said.
The September shootings were “really more of a late-night phenomenon. Frankly, they aren’t part of Second Saturday," said Cohn, adding the two are "correlated" because some people who go to the art walk continue hanging out in the central city afterwards.
Starting in April, Second Saturday Art Walk hours will be 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. All outdoor amplified sound, primarily from bands and street musicians, must end by 8 p.m., whether the musicians are performing on public or private property.
Also new this year: Sidewalk and street vendors, musicians and property owners allowing multiple vendors to sell on their lots must get permits from the city. The city will now permit vendors to sell only handcrafted, original items, said Teresa Jackson, superintendent with the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
People who go out just for nightlife on Second Saturdays usually start showing up around 9 p.m., so city officials think ending the art walk and outdoor music at 8 p.m. will encourage minors to get home by the 10 p.m. curfew, Jones said.
However, businesses and vending on private property can continue to operate past 8 p.m.
The city is also working on problems with gang violence. Mayor Kevin Johnson began a gang prevention initiative a few months ago and his office held a forum on gang and youth violence in Oak Park last month, Jones said.
In November, the Sacramento Police Department launched Ceasefire, modeled after a Boston program. Through the program, criminal justice agencies and religious organizations confront offenders with the likelihood that they’ll end up dead or imprisoned a large part of their lives – unless they change their lifestyles.
The agencies offer alternatives to help gang members make changes by continuing education or getting job training. Six gang members are now going through the program, said Police Department Capt. Dana Matthes, commander of the city’s central and east areas.
To help make streets and sidewalks more safe, the city is installing 86 new acorn-shaped street lights on I and J streets and sidestreets from 20th Street to 27th Street. The lights are being paid for with $406,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds, $47,000 in local transportation funds and $80,000 in funding from the Midtown Business Association. Work is expected to be completed by year’s end, according to Sue Brown, director of Cohn’s District 3.
The city is also considering changing its parking ordinance to allow city staff to make changes to residential parking zones – such as extending the hours of certain areas to after 6 p.m. – to solve problems without having to get City Council approval.
The process would stay the same. It would still require a request from residents or business owners to be initiated and supported from a certain number of residents to take effect, Parking Services Manager Howard Chan said.
"Second Saturday is a free-for-all as far as parking right now," Midtown resident Dale Kooyman said.
Residents at the meeting disagreed over whether the requirement to have a residential permit should be extended into the evenings. The issue has been brought up twice in the past and residents voted against that, they said.
However, Chan said changes can address small areas and don’t have to impact an entire permit zone.
Residents are pushing the city and private businesses to reduce the number of Second Saturday visitors and late-night bar and restaurant patrons parking on residential streets. The city must build awareness of parking garages, while private lot owners could open their lots for free parking to reduce neighborhood impacts such as noise, litter and crime, they said.
"The real problem is the behavior when they return to their cars," said Bill Burgua, former chair of the Marshall School/New Era Park Neighborhood Association.
Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @SuzanneHurt.