Category Archives: News

South River Road: land use transition and rail safety become issues

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 21, 2015 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

A petroleum “tank farm” has bumped up against concerns by city leaders about the safety of rail cars loaded with hazardous materials and also the about the changing role of South River Road in West Sacramento. The facility has sued the city about the dispute.

Buckeye Terminals operates a gas distribution facility on both sides of South River Road to serve local BP stations and other operators. As part of its operation at 1700 South River Road, the company has, until December, been operating under a series of “conditional use permits” by which it’s been allowed to bring some of its ethanol supply in by train. The last permit expired in December after the city planning commission opted not to renew it.

Meanwhile, West Sacramento officials – like others in the country and Canada – have become increasingly concerned by their lack of control over rail cars moving through the community or being parked in it. Rail operators like Union Pacific are largely immune from local regulation and they don’t have to disclose what’s in those parked cars, or even if they are full of hazardous materials or they’re empty.

Also, since the 1980s, that old industrial riverfront off of South River Road has been zoned to become something more urban and vibrant, although old land uses are “grandfathered in” as long as they don’t plan on making big changes to their operations. That strategic change in land use is now finally beginning to look imminent –last year’s opening of the Mike McGowan Bridge connecting South River Road to Southport, the likely construction of a new Sacramento River bridge connecting Broadway in Sacramento to the 15th Street area in West Sacramento, and the demolition of the old Cemex Silo just south of the freeway all look like early harbingers of that transition.

When the planning commission voted in November not to extend Buckeye’s rail permit, the company appealed the decision to the city council. The council listened on Dec. 17 (quotes below come from city video of that meeting).

Braiden Chadwick, an attorney for Buckeye, argued that the permit should be approved because moving the ethanol by rail is safer than the alternative.

“Rail traffic is not only safer than truck, but also is cleaner in terms of movement of hazardous materials,” he said. He added that in the last couple of years, “there’s been zero complaints out there” about rail crossings that impeded local traffic.

“There have been no accidents,” he added.

Braiden criticized staff for misidentifying ethanol cars and other petroleum product cars, and for putting too much blame on Buckeye for times when rail crossing arms were down at local intersections such as one on Jefferson Boulevard.

West Sacramento’s fire chief, Rick Martinez, said the decision between moving a limited amount of ethanol traffic from rail to truck was one of “managed risk.”

“We have, as I’ve stated in the past, no jurisdiction over the movement of rail in our community,” said Martinez. “These tanker cars come into our community, they sit for days. . . adjacent to housing, parks and obviously the terminal. With the migration from tank cars to truck, it’s just a ‘managed risk’ situation. It allows us to influence the speed at which they travel through our community, the route which they take, and where they’re stored overnight.”

City Councilman Bill Kristoff commented at the meeting that he had recently come off of westbound 80 at the South River Road exit, and drove past the water tank and Ironworks subdivision:

“As you look to the left, you saw 20-30 rail cars – I didn’t count them, but it took me by surprise,” said Kristoff. “I don’t know the rail business well enough to know why all of these cars have to stay in our community for as long as they stay, and at the same time we don’t get to know what’s in them. That’s sort of alarming to me.”

He noted that many of those cars probably do not contain product for Buckeye.

As the council readied for what would be a unanimous vote against issuing the permit, Mayor Christopher Cabaldon added:

“There is no animus toward the project and Buckeye.”

“We’re firmly committed to the transition of this area,” he said. “But the existing Buckeye facility is absolutely welcome to remain and operate at its existing site to the extend that it’s complying with the terms of its permits. If it’s not invading the public right of way or engaging in any otherwise illegal activity, it’s perfectly welcome to stay in our community in the South River Road district.”

He said it’s always been clear that the time would come when the city would stop making “extraordinary allowances to nonconforming uses” along South River Road, and that this time has come.

“The era where we would waive our policies around what this district is supposed to be – that era is coming to a close,” said Cabaldon.

Buckeye has filed a lawsuit over the decision, saying that putting the ethanol in trucks will increase the threat to public safety.

Copyright News-Ledger 2015

Target store doesn’t let RCHS students inside during the day

The Target logo looms over a football game at River City High School’s home stadium (Laura Asatryan, River City H.S. Journalism staff)

The Target logo looms over a football game at River City High School’s home stadium (Laura Asatryan, River City H.S. Journalism staff)

NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 21, 2015 —

By Bailey Hill and Rebecca Schwartz
River City High School Journalism Class

Groups of students at River City High School, ever since they moved into the new campus on 1 Raider Lane in 2008, have made a habit of spending time after school at Target, which is directly across Linden Road.

Recently, school administration sent an email to teachers to inform students that Target is now restricting minors from entering the store before 5:00 pm unless accompanied by an adult.

River City High School senior Kimi Crist, who frequently went to Target after school said, “…My friends and I go there all the time so we can have time together. I don’t think the entire school should be punished for the actions of a few kids.”

As news of the restriction began to circulate around campus, reactions to the policy were mixed.

“I think it’s kind of a sad commentary on the community’s perception of what River City students are like… They [Target] are more frustrated at the students that they would rather lose the money that they are gaining from the students rather than dealing with their behavior,” Vice Principal Mrs. Kristin Rodriguez had said.

Officer M. Kirkland, a West Sacramento police department School Resource Officer, had a different perspective. He mentioned the fact that when students steal from target they often try to steal alcohol and that causes both a legal and medical concern.

“…When they go to steal it mainly has to do with alcohol and that gives us a medical concern as a town. Target has been too lenient with the immature students,” says Kirkland.

After repeated attempts to contact Target’s Chief of Security, they declined to issue an official statement, however claimed that this was a preexisting agreement that they had with the school dating back to when it was first established, and are only asking River City to reemphasize the rule again as they had in the past. Employees of Target had said that they wouldn’t have minded the students, if they had been more respectful of Target as a private business.

“We’re probably going to open up some after school activities at the Rec Center,” said RCHS principal Stan Mojsich, “So maybe some kids, instead of hanging out in front of the store, the number of people hanging out won’t be as great, there’ll be people doing hopefully some things at the rec center.”

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West Sac looks to public art to help unify Sac/West Sac streetcar line

NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 14, 2014 —

The West Sacramento City Council voted last month to work with regional partners to apply for a public arts grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) . The “Our Town” grant of up to $200,000 would focus on bringing art pieces to the city’s Washington neighborhood and the future streetcar route connecting Sacramento and West Sacramento.

Also involved in the art planning project are the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, the City of Sacramento and Crocker Arts Museum.

“The ‘Our Town’ proposal envisions art installations as a place-making feature of the planned streetcar route and way-finding for bicyclists and pedestrians moving between West Sacramento’s waterfront neighborhoods and civic center and Sacramento’s railyards, capitol and museums,” said a staff report. “The cities would also use the funds to select one artist that will create two pieces which will engage, interact or connect with each other to be installed in each side of the river respectively. Another installation will be analyzed within the Washington District depending on the final grant award amount and budget.”

The plan being proposed to the NEA calls first for a consultant to work with the public and create a “curatorial vision” for the Washington district and streetcar area. No actual art pieces have yet been picked.

The city has already received a $400,000 grant for art from the state parks department, for art at the corner of Riverwalk and Tower Bridge Gateway, with a $200,000 local match.  These funds will be used as the “local match” needed for the proposed NEA grant.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2015

Don’t buy that new toy – borrow it

Six-year-old Sasha Stanchits checks out the foosball toy with the West Sacramento Toy Library program coordinator, library assistant Carly Brotherton. (Photos by Al Zagofsky)

Six-year-old Sasha Stanchits checks out the foosball toy with the West Sacramento Toy Library program coordinator, library assistant Carly Brotherton.
(Photos by Al Zagofsky)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 21, 2014 —

By Al Zagofsky
Correspondent

Have you ever had your child pull your sleeve, cry and beg that they need the latest and greatest toy that they saw on television or at their friends’ home?

And then, the next day you spend big bucks for the toy, they love it—they love you, and the following day it’s pushed aside, perhaps never to be played with again, and relegated to the junk pile. There is a solution—the West Sacramento Toy Library at the Turner Community Library.

“We have toys for kids of all ages,” explained program coordinator, library assistant Carly Brotherton. “The program focuses mostly on ages from newborn to 6 years old. We have puzzles, blocks, baby dolls, musical instruments, balls, gloves and even a T-ball set.”

The West Sacramento Toy Library is a membership organization, and is open on Tuesdays from noon to 2 pm, and on Wednesdays from 4 pm to 6 pm. Membership is $15 per year and entitles members to take out up to five toys at a time for three weeks. Toys can be returned to the library circulation desk any time the library is open.

“Members can swap out toys, so they are constantly able to get fresh toys to take home,” Carlie said. “When they get tired of them, they bring them back, and go home with new toys.”

“The most popular toys are ones that make noise,” She explained. “This includes the big ambulance, various musical instruments, and the keyboard. The parents enjoy the advantage of having the toys returned after three weeks—often sooner.”

After they are returned, toys are cleaned by a volunteer before they are made available for the next person to check out. If a toy is returned broken, sometimes a volunteer can repair it, otherwise the borrower is asked to replace the damaged toy with one of a similar value.

Although the Toy Library is housed at the Turner Community Library, the five-year-old program is operated by Child  Care Services of Davis. For many years, the Toy Library was housed in the West Sacramento City Hall. The Toy Library currently has 50 members. They are always seeking new members and clean toys in good condition.

“The Toy Library helps cut costs for parents, and saves them the time and trouble of having to go out and buy a lot of toys,” Carly noted. “We get donations from our community, and that helps keep the supply fresh. Patrons are not seeing the same toys over and over again.”

The Toy Library is located at the Arthur F. Turner Community Library, 1212 Merkley Avenue in West Sacramento., telephone number: (916) 375-6465.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2015

Cheap books, movies & music: winter sale from Friends of Library

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER —

The West Sacramento Friends of the Library invite you to browse their collection of books, CDs and movies for sale on the weekend of Jan. 24-25 at the Arthur F. Turner Branch Library, 1212 Merkley Avenue.

Saturday’s hours will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays will be 10-3. Hardbacks will go for $1, paperbacks for 50 cents, children’s books for 10-25 cents, with special priced books, CDs and movies as well. On Sunday, items will go for $3 per bagful. For information or to volunteer, call 375-6465, ext. 4, or email wsfol99@yahoo.com.

Proceeds benefit programs at the library.

Copyright News-Ledger 2015

California counties, cities settle with Safeway over handling of hazardous wastes

NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 14, 2015 —

Safeway Inc. has agreed to pay $9.87 million in “civil penalties, costs and supplemental environmental projects” after a group of California officials alleged its stores have been mishandling hazardous and pharmaceutical wastes.

The office of Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig was among the 42 district attorneys and two city attorneys who joined the legal action against Safeway. The Pleasanton-based company settled the case after working “cooperatively” with investigators. The court judgment was approved this month in Alameda County Superior Court.

“The investigation into Safeway’s practices began after discovery of improper shipments of hazardous and pharmaceutical waste to Safeway’s distribution centers form their stores,” said Reisig’s office in a press statement.

“The investigation revealed that Safeway was also routinely and systematically sending hazardous and pharmaceutical wastes to local area landfills not equipped to receive such waste. Upon being notified by prosecutors of the widespread issues, Safeway worked cooperatively to remedy the issue, enhance its environmental program and train its employees to properly handle such waste.”

The settlement resolved allegations involving over 500 Safeway stores and distribution centers, including its brands of Vons, Pavilions and Pak ‘n Save. Safeway operates several stores in Yolo County, including a Safeway at 1298 West Capitol Avenue in West Sacramento.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The News-Ledger contacted the D.A.’s office to find out how much of the settlement is earmarked for Yolo County. We received a response after this article was published in our print edition.

A spokesman informed the News-Ledger that $375,000 of the settlement will go to Yolo County District Attorney’s office in the form of civil penalties, and the D.A.’s office will also receive about $89,000 in cost recovery.

The Yolo County Environmental Health Department will receive about $35,250 of the Safeway settlement in civil penalties and will recover costs in the amount of $5,400.

Copyright News-Ledger 2015

A short road trip to storied, Chinese-founded town in the Delta

Photo by Al Zagofsky

Photo by Al Zagofsky

NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 14, 2015

By Al Zagofsky
Correspondent

Just 30 miles south of West Sacramento is the last remaining rural Chinatown, an outpost remaining largely intact since its founding in 1915, and struggling to survive in its centennial year.

This unique historic property, described by the Locke Foundation as, “The only town in the United States built exclusively by Chinese Americans for the Chinese Americans,” and “inhabited almost exclusively by Chinese until recent years,” now faces a deteriorating infrastructure that has become repopulated by a 90 percent  non-Chinese citizenry.

A PLACE FOR GAMES OF CHANCE: Locke grew to a population of between 500 and 600 people with a main street full of businesses, some of which, like gambling and brothels, drew people from miles around. (Photo by Al Zagofsky)

A PLACE FOR GAMES OF CHANCE: Locke grew to a population of between 500 and 600 people with a main street full of businesses, some of which, like gambling and brothels, drew people from miles around.
(Photo by Al Zagofsky)

In 1971, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1990, the Locke Historic District of Walnut Grove was designated a National Historic Landmark. The  Boarding House at the entry to Locke is owned by the California Department of State Parks and has been turned into a museum.

Passage of the Swamp and Overflow Land Act in 1850 conveyed ownership of all swamp and overflow land, including Delta marshes, from the federal government to the state of California. Proceeds from the sale of swampland by the state were to go toward reclaiming the swamplands.

Contractors were hired to build levees along the Sacramento River to prevent flooding and allow the marshland to be trained for agriculture.

“In 1860, a contractor recruited  a few thousand Chinese men from the San Francisco area to build the Sacramento Delta levees,” according to Clarence Chu, a volunteer at the State Parks Boarding House Museum. “This became the Central Valley farmland.”

“For 20 years, it was all done by hand, by pushing wheelbarrows and hauling dirt.” The workers lived in tents as the levees progressed along the Sacramento River. Around 1880, mechanization replaced manual labor—the Chinese workers were no longer needed.

The Chinese school building is now a museum and open to the public free of charge. Currently two giant bronze busts commemorating Sun Yat-sen and Confucius sit before its entrance. (Photo by Al Zagofsky)

The Chinese school building is now a museum and open to the public free of charge. Currently two giant bronze busts commemorating Confucius and Sun Yat-sen sit before its entrance.
(Photo by Al Zagofsky)

Some of these workers remained behind, with many settling in Walnut Grove. Over the next generation, the children became merchants and professionals. But under the laws at the time, they were forbidden to own property.

After a fire destroyed the Chinese section of Walnut Grove in 1915, several Chinese merchants approached George Locke and negotiated an extended lease on 10 acres of his property. This became the town of Lockeport, later shortened to Locke. The land remained in private ownership until 2001, when it was purchased by the County of Sacramento.

The first thing that visitors to Locke notice is the State Parks’ Boarding House Museum. It was built in 1909 to board workers of the Southern Pacific Railroad and it thus predated the establishment of Locke. The boarding house was later purchased by the Kuramoto family, a Japanese family from Walnut Grove. They operated the boarding house from 1920 to 1942—when they were interned during World War II. They did not resume operation of the boarding house after the war.

“When the Kuramoto boarding house opened in 1915,  it attracted Chinese migrant farmworkers,” explained Clarence Chu. “There was a difference in the economic status between the new immigrants from China and the ones that had been here for at least a few years, some of whom owned restaurants; some of whom owned grocery stores.”

Locke grew to a population of between 500 and 600 people with a main street full of businesses, some of which, like gambling and brothels, drew people from miles around.

After the Depression and World War II, many of the children and grandchildren of the founders of Locke left the area. For the last half-century, many of the buildings have been in a state of disrepair.

But Locke’s charm has been rediscovered, and once again the buildings are being reclaimed as restaurants, museums and shops.

It’s definitely worth a trip to discover a unique example of both national history and the spirit of a town that’s working to preserve that history.

Teachers and parents can access a National Parks lesson on Locke at: http://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/Locke/locke.htm.

Driving directions:
Set a GPS to: 13916 Main St., Walnut Grove, CA 95690. From Sacramento, take I-5 South for about 20 minutes, and exit at Twin Cities Road. Follow Twin Cities Rd. and River Rd. to Key St. in Walnut Grove, about eight minutes, and look for sign for the Locke Historic District.Go one block past the boarding house and there is a parking lot on the left.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2015