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Community splits over future of Curtis Park Village

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In a lively neighborhood-wide gathering rivaled only by the annual flea market, Curtis Park residents on Oct. 6 encouraged and criticized plans to develop Curtis Park Village in the adjacent, long-contaminated Union Pacific Railyard.

Local developer Paul Petrovich, president of the Petrovich Development Company, hosted the community meeting at his Stone Pointe complex on Freeport and Sutterville to explain plans for the development and let residents voice concerns. The atmosphere grew tense as attendees questioned him about everything from toxic-cleanup safety regulations to his taste in public art.

Petrovich’s proposal is to create a sustainable community with residential and retail zones. He began working on the project in 2004.

"My plan is to make it look like the railyard never happened," he said.

Many aspects of Petrovich’s presentation were met with scoffs and arguments from Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association board members. He said their comments have made the project stronger; at their suggestion he has added smaller residential lots and low-income housing for senior citizens.

Some attendants, however, worried that SCNA’s often negative feedback would hinder the project to the point of desertion.

 "If they’re not careful, he’s going to leave it," said Darlene Petkovich, former board member and resident for 62 years. "They’re going to get somebody from a far distant land to buy it, and they’ll put up whatever they want, and they won’t even bother with SCNA."

Before development can begin, Petrovich must clean out the 240,000 cubic yards of soil contaminated with arsenic and lead left over by Union Pacific. He has not yet received permission from the state to dig 20 feet down, seal in the toxins and cover with clean soil — a process that has already begun — but claims it is done regularly.

"Your greatest risk is if I don’t do it," he said in response to many safety concerns.

Staying true to his past developments in Sacramento and Davis, Petrovich plans to bring in local businesses and franchises, but several SCNA members expressed concern about the proposed amount of retail space. Petrovich insisted that any less commercial space would make the project financially infeasible.

Neighbors also worried about the increase in traffic. Petrovich cited maps and research claiming that traffic levels would not increase significantly: Small existing streets would rise from 1 car per minute to 1.8 per minute.

"My biggest concern (is) that the fabric of the neighborhood will be changed forever, by the increased traffic and the lack of transit-oriented development," said SCNA president Rosanna Herber, who has lived in Curtis Park for 18 years.

The Sacramento Area Council of Governments approved the plan Wednesday as a "transit-oriented community." The development will easily link to Regional Transit routes and feature bike- and pedestrian-friendly streets, Petrovich said.

Residents interested in continuing the public discourse on the future of Curtis Park Village can attend the SCNA board meeting on Oct. 28 at Sierra 2.

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