No longer a ‘pedestrian mall,’ K Street prepares for cars
On Tuesday evening, the City Council will consider revising a local ordinance that will bring the city one step closer to seeing cars on K Street for the first time in more than 45 years.
The revised ordinance will change a city code that has been in place since the early 1960s that defined the five blocks of K Street between Eighth to 12th streets as a “pedestrian mall,” closing it to vehicular traffic.
“It was something that was happening in a lot of places back then,” said Denise Malvetti, department manager at the city’s Economic Development Department. “Cities were trying to replicate the suburban experience, and they created a lot of these pedestrian malls. It was a failed experiment, though.”
Roughly 150 cities in the U.S. installed pedestrian malls in the 1960s, Malvetti said, and now about half of those have converted back to allow street traffic.
“We’ve been working on getting cars back on K Street since late 2008,” Malvetti said. “We’ve put a lot of consideration into this project, and we did a lot of outreach to the community.”
Business owners were outspoken in saying that returning cars to K Street is vital to increasing retail activity in the area, Malvetti said, but they won’t see an instant change.
“It will likely be an incremental increase over time,” Malvetti said.
City Council recently approved numerous projects intended to revitalize the J-K-L corridor, and K Street in particular, in order to stimulate economic activity in the area and bring people back to what was once a hub of activity in the city, Malvetti said.
The “Cars on K Street” project was part of a $2.7 million construction and design project approved by City Council in April 2010.
The purpose of the project, according to a staff report, is to “increase access and visibility to businesses, promote a safe environment, stimulate additional economic activity, and improve (traffic) circulation.”
“Sacramento needs to be more pedestrian-friendly,” said Councilman Steve Cohn, “but the way that part of K Street is laid out, it wasn’t working as a pedestrian-only street.”
Cohn said returning cars to K Street makes sense because it will help with traffic flow and make it easier for people to get to the businesses along that part of K Street.
In order to allow for the reintroduction of cars on K Street from Eighth to 12th streets, the city code must be amended to remove the definition of “pedestrian mall” currently applied to those five street blocks.
According to provisions in the city charter, the council must first pass the revised ordinance for publication, and then it can finalize the approval at the following City Council meeting.
This is one of the last steps before construction can begin, Malvetti said. The Department of Transportation will bring a construction contract to City Council next week for approval, and then groundbreaking can begin within the first week of August.
Design plans for the “Cars on K Street” project include creating new crossing signals at 11th and K streets, wheelchair access at intersections and the addition of edge treatments (possibly planters or street furniture) to provide a buffer between the roadway and sidewalks to increase pedestrian safety and make the blocks more visually appealing.
“Our goal is to have cars back on K Street in early November,” Malvetti said. “It’s one more step in the revitalization of K Street.”
Melissa Corker is a Staff Reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.