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Area 1 Neighborhood Advisory Group members cautiously welcomed the new leader of the Midtown Business Association Monday evening at their monthly meeting and took the opportunity to express their frustrations with the organization.
About 40 residents, business leaders and presenters attended the meeting – a high turnout, according to Bill Burgua, attendee.
Elizabeth Studebaker, the new executive director of the Midtown Business Association, said her first focus is on trash removal, and that aggressive changes will be made. She also addressed concerns about the growing number of bars and restaurants in Midtown.
(Image by: Kim Reyes)
“There’s a very strong perception that the neighborhood has been taken over by the hospitality industry,” said Burgua. “You are up against a really dim view from the people in the neighborhood.”
Studebaker said she’ll work hard to repair the relationship between residents and the MBA, but she asked for time and assistance from the community.
She also announced the search for a maintenance manager to oversee the removal of trash, graffiti and the overall appearance of the business district.
In regard to the proliferation of liquor providers in the area, Studebaker said she’s in search of a healthy balance of businesses, with a focus on small businesses.
“MBA can’t decide who opens a business here, but we can be a communication tool,” Studebaker said.
David Brent, interim director of the city’s Department of Utilities, presented proposed increases to water and waste water rates. The increases would fund a program to replace or rehabilitate the aging infrastructure.
The water treatment plant on the Sacramento river is operating with the original pumps from 1920. Many miles of pipeline are more than 100 years old and are in danger of failure, Brent said. He added that it’s a necessary investment to avoid the risk of flooded houses, closed businesses and sewage backups.
“All our lives, we’ve turned on the water or flushed the toilet without any thought as to how it gets there or where it goes,” Brent said.
The proposal included a 10 percent increase for each of the next three years to unmetered water rates, and an average 15 percent increase to waste water rates. The total increase would add approximately $20 to the average customer’s bill each month by the final increase in 2014, according to Brent’s proposal.
The proposal goes to the City Council on Feb. 21.
Sacramento Police Department Lt. Bill Champion and Norm Colby with the Department of Transportation addressed the growing incidences of copper theft around Sacramento. Some of the hardest-hit targets have been street lights, traffic signals and parks.
“For every foot we put in, they pull out three,” Colby said.
Champion and Colby asked residents to be vigilant and to contact police if people are seen in electrical boxes that don’t seem like they belong. Also, the public should note any missing access covers, as they likely indicate a theft has occurred.
Colby said he’s working to replace the current electrical access covers with locking lids. So far, 400-500 have been purchased, but with 80,000 lids in Sacramento, it is a long, expensive project.
The cost to replace the missing copper is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Champion said cameras have been set up to catch thieves, but a better way to tackle the problem is with recyclers and scrap metal dealers.
“If they have nowhere to take it to sell, it becomes worthless,” Champion said, adding that dealers should be required to check identifications and take thumbprints from sellers.
(Image by: Kim Reyes)
Central city parking was addressed by Greg Sandlund, associate planner with the city of Sacramento. Sandlund said efforts are being made to modernize parking requirements for new businesses and housing developments. He said his office is looking to provide alternative, smarter ways to provide more parking in the neighborhood, such as scooter or bike parking.
Residents voiced frustrations about the current parking situation and said the city needs to incentivize business owners to share private parking, particularly at night when many lots sit empty.
“Old neighborhoods are dense, and this creates an issue where residents at night can’t get anywhere near our houses,” said Karen Jacques, member of NAG. “It’s a convenience issue and a safety issue.”
Teresa Jackson, with the Department of Parks and Recreation, presented proposed changes to the ordinances that govern special events. Jackson said current codes haven’t been updated since 1995, and the Special Event Ordinance Committee was formed to streamline the process.
The committee is a collection of business owners, event planners and neighborhood representatives.
The proposed updates will make it easier for event planners to understand the “do’s and don’ts” in Sacramento.
Among the changes is a proposal to increase the time needed to file an application from 20 days before the event to 60 days, a process that will allow for better community notification, Jackson said.
The decibel level of special events was also addressed. The acceptable levels would be increased, but the Special Event Ordinance Committee wants to require event planners to pay for an event attendant to monitor sound, Jackson said. She added that police officers now carry decibel meters, and planners will be fined if city resources are used to close down an event.
The next agenda committee meeting will take place on Feb. 6, and the next general NAG meeting will be Feb. 21. Meetings are usually held at the Hart Senior Center, located at 915 27th St.