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”OLD SOUL” ALLEY PROJECT RECEIVES MAJOR BOOST

On Tuesday, December 15, 2009, the Sacramento City Council authorized the use of $100,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for infrastructure improvements for a “Pedestrian First” pilot alley project between Capitol Avenue and L Street from 17th to 18th Streets. Many readers know this as the alley where “Old Soul” Coffee House resides. Private contributions of in-kind services and dollars have also been raised for design and enhancements.

This pilot “Pedestrian First Alley” project will include pedestrian-oriented safety features such as way-finding signage, accessibility improvements, and traffic mitigation; beautification features such as enhanced pavement, lighting, landscaping and outdoor furniture; and replacement of century-old combined sewer and storm drains, and other utility lines. The City’s recently adopted General Plan recognizes the tremendous unfulfilled potential that Central City alleys present as pedestrian thoroughfares, residential front-doors, small business locations and possible restaurant and café designations. In contrast, most alleys in the city now function as service areas for trash disposal, vehicle access to garages and rear/side entrances of abutting property and emergency service access.

For the past few years, a group of Central City residents, property owners, architects, builders, city staff and other stakeholders formed the Alley Activation Committee, meeting regularly to discuss how to transform selected alleyways in the Central City from back-of-house service entrances and potential crime zones to vibrant spaces that contribute positively to the Central City’s ambiance and livability.
On August 11, 2009, the Alley Activation Committee introduced three different pilot project ideas to the City Council: (1) “Pedestrian First Alley”; (2) “Alley Oriented Residential Uses” in which the City promotes higher density by allowing more housing units on the back portion of a parcel fronting on an alley than would normally be allowed under the applicable zoning ordinance; and (3) “Restaurant Uses” such as including outdoor seating. All of these ideas were well received and Council directed city staff to work with the Alley Activation Committee to develop pilot projects, including the Old Soul Alley project described above, look for potential funding sources and increase community outreach.

Since August, the Alley Activation Committee have focused on the Old Soul Alley project, in conjunction with a land use application filed by Jeremy Drucker for a four-unit residential project fronting on the same alley. Many of you know Drucker as the innovative, green builder who successfully developed the area’s first LEED-certified residential project, “9 on F” (a nine-unit townhouse project at 14th &F). Both Drucker and members of the Alley Activation Committee have spoken directly to all property owners on this pilot alley, and they have been notified of public hearings on the Drucker project. In addition, presentations on alley activation have been made to the Midtown Neighborhood Association, the Neighborhood Advisory Committee (NAG), SOCA, ECOS, the City Disabilities Advisory Commission, the Midtown Business Association, and the Downtown Partnership.

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