Category Archives: Top Story

Safeway and Big Lots on Jefferson Boulevard closing

By Monica Stark

The Safeway on West Capitol Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard will be closed by the end of the month, Wendy Gutshall, director of public and government affairs, Safeway Northern California Division, told the News-Ledger in a written statement. Gutshall said Safeway anticipates all employees will be able to be placed in surrounding stores. Meanwhile, shoppers have been taking advantage of the 25 percent off everything sale.
“The decision to close a store isn’t one we make lightly or without a great deal of deliberation. Like all retailers, we’re constantly evaluating the performance of our portfolio of stores, and our teams work hard to make all of our stores successful. That said, it’s occasionally necessary to close locations that aren’t meeting company goals,” she stated.
“Closing an underperforming store is always a tough decision, but we’re focused on growing our business and running great stores where people love to shop. That’s what will enable us to offer the products and services our customers value most throughout Sacramento,” Gutshall continued.
She, however, did not address the following additional questions:

Will Safeway open another location in West Sac? If not, why not?
How many employees currently work at the West Sacramento one?
Does the store experience more shoplifting than average?
How long has the West Sac Safeway location been there?
Are there other California locations that are closing for the same reasons as this one? If so, which ones? Have you received pleas to have Safeway stay? (It seems a lot of neighbors are sad it is closing.)

As Safeway prepares closing its West Sacramento location, neighboring Big Lots is also shutting its doors, spawning discussion on web forums regarding shoplifting and homelessness affecting the success and viability of the stores.
Meanwhile, Mayor Christopher Cabaldon says there is no reuse project or store slated to move in right away. He explains the property is privately owned and the City does not select tenants, and the owner is beginning to market the spaces (about 50,000 square feet) to new retail tenants. No project plan to renovate or build something new has been submitted to City Hall.
“Even though our city’s population has tripled since Safeway opened, the supermarket and drugstore industries have tightened, as many traditional stores have been squeezed on the high end by the Nugget, Whole Foods, and others, and on the other end of the spectrum by groceries at Target, WalMart, Grocery Outlet, and online via Amazon. Like Raley’s two blocks away, Safeway has been an important employer and community institution, and we’re sorry to see them go, but the economic reality they’re facing is undeniable,” he wrote.
He continued by acknowledging the change the three generations that Safeway has been at the site has faced. “An entire downtown grew up next door, as the Civic Center, college, library, senior apartments, preschool, teen center, theater, gallery, and community center came online over the past few years. West Capitol Avenue next to the shopping center got a complete makeover and daytime consumers from the offices, residents, and students who now inhabit the downtown. Walgreens and Capitol Bowl did major renovations. Multiple motels came down. A new transit center connected the whole city to the place, along with bikeshare linking downtown and the northern and waterfront districts. And the new streetcar line will start right at the shopping center’s front doorstep.
“The modern land use plan for downtown envisions and allows a much more dynamic, mixed-use, retail-focused center where Safeway and Big Lots now sit. Instead of the 55,000 square feet of retail space, the City would now permit ten times that much, along with housing, offices, and parking. The pictures below from the West Capitol Avenue Streetscape Master Plan give a sense of what’s possible (although the pictures reflect a 2007 design aesthetic). If you’re familiar with the latest Midtown projects, it permits projects on the scale of the Ice Blocks or the Cannery. Click through to the link below to see the full plan and imagine what’s possible.
T”o emphasize, this is a private commercial center and the property owner will decide whether and how to fill the existing spaces and/or to rebuild or sell the parcel for a mixed-use retail project that would serve the West Sacramento of today and tomorrow. But the window of opportunity is open.”

So, with that, dear reader, what would you like to see in place of Safeway and Big Lots? Send an email with your suggestions to editor@news-ledger.com.

West Sac Kids Give Back

Local children help homeless with creation of cheer packs

By Michele Townsend

Three years ago, a boy from West Sacramento told his mom that he wanted to do something for the homeless. It was the holiday season, and this very proud mom agreed with her son, and came up with an idea. After speaking with some other mothers, four moms got together and developed a way their kids could help.

Quirina Orozco, one of the founding mothers, explained it as, “We live in a time where it seems that the majority of what kids were being taught is how to get, get, get! If you’re good – you’ll get this… if you do extra chores – you’ll get that.”

This is not what these moms wanted their children to be learning… Especially during the holiday season! The mothers agreed that the idea of giving seemed was becoming a distant memory to some. They decided to combine their efforts, and created “Cheer Packs”.

The plan was for the kids to collect donations of necessity items, assemble them into individual packs, and donate them to local non profit organizations that help the West Sac residents in need. This would not only teach the kids how to give back to their community, but to teach others as well. The first year there was about 12 kids that collected items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, foot powder, sock, gloves, beanies, feminine products, baby wipes, and children’s books. The kids assembled 50 bags, or Cheer Packs.

The word got out, and by this time last year West Sac Kids Give Back program had grown to 150 kids. That group of children collected enough items to assemble 300 bags!! Understand that the adults are overseeing the process, but the kids are doing most of the work. However, all of those involved have helped make somebody’s day a little brighter! This year, the kids collected items for an entire month prior, and got 20 local businesses involved. The goal is the assembly of 900 Cheer Packs that will be donated, for distribution, to the following organization; Collings Teen Center, My Sister’s House and Yolo County Children’s Alliance.

On Sunday, December 17th a few of the kids and their parents, held this year’s final drop off day for the community. Several kids (and their parents) stood in front of Sail Inn Grotto & Bar, while a steady stream of cars, holding good Samaritans, dropped off items. Jeff Henry, a West Sac resident, former Chamber President, and Executive Vice President of Placer County Contractor’s Association & Building Exchange, arrived to drop off his donation of the 1,000 big ziplock baggies that the Cheer Packs will be assembled in. Also included in the long list of Good Samaratin’s was Mayor Cabaldon, and of course Orozco, who became involved with the program last year.

Quirina stated, “As a council member, mother, and member of this great West Sacramento community… I am greatly interested in promoting programs that serve children and provide them opportunities to grow.” But make no mistake, these kids understand that every single donation was as important as the last!

Kathy Senna, a West Sac resident, said as she was dumping a bag of items into the collection boxes, “I was watching Channel 31, getting ready to go to church, and I thought I gotta run and get some stuff for them before church!” As seen above, all ages were involved! Sydney Olsen, age 3, arrived with her daddy, Dan to drop off 2 bags of items. Sydney had a huge smile on her face as she loaded the items into the box that was bigger than she is! And in her very sweet little voice, she could tell you what she was there for, and why.

The assembly party, held on the 17th, will feature Santa, cookies, and a lot of fun! This program welcomes, and encourages, all West Sac children, classrooms, scout troops, etc. to get involved in the program! It is a lot of fun, a great life lesson on the importance of giving, as well as develop an appreciation on ways to give back to your community. I think that it is best summed up in the program’s motto… “Young hands leaving an imprint on their community!”

Westmore Oaks 6th graders built solar suitcases for Kenyan students

By Monica Stark
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Sixty students in Ms. Garcia’s science club elective at Westmore Oaks built six solar suitcases and sent two of them off to a school in Kenya—a learning experience that reached beyond the classroom and is helping others in need. The ones staying at home will be used for further solar power education. Garcia attended a two-day professional workshop with 15 Bay Area teachers to learn how to teach solar electricity based on a solar platform called the solar suitcase. Together with her students, Garcia’s class will make the world a brighter place and more hopeful for youth living in regions of energy poverty.

Through building the solar suitcase, a 12 volt dc stand-alone solar system that can power lights, cell phones and small electronic devices, students learned how solar electricity actually works. The program is meant to improve students’ STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) skills and solar energy knowledge while also raising awareness of energy poverty in other parts of the world.

When paired with appropriately sized solar panels and batteries, the solar suitcase is capable of handling up to 200 watts of incoming solar electricity and can light up average sized rooms as well as serve as a charging station. It is an easy-to-use, easy-to-transport complete solar electric system. It is not only a simple technology, but also is extremely valuable to those who live without access to a grid for electricity supply.

As a learning experience, the students had to figure out all the various pieces and purposes of each piece that went into making the solar suitcases. Following engineering practices, the students learned that each piece had a purpose.

Garcia and a previous year’s class worked on solar suitcases, so this year’s students got to see the example of a finished product, which helped them figure out “what goes where” in terms of the various pieces.

Over 1.2 billion people in the world live without access to electricity, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of Central and South America. For students, this means the opportunity to improve their life changes is severely limited by the hours of daylight. Connecting with the outside world is impossible. Their options of kerosene and candlelight are not only expensive sources of light, but also dangers and ineffective. Often students will gather under streetlights and near gas stations to try to study by the light provided. African students must sit for the demanding and difficult national exams to qualify for high school admittance. Without light at night, countless students are disadvantaged in preparation, ruling out further educational opportunities at a young age. Although many carry cell phones, they are unable to charge them regularly which results in a lack of connection to the larger world as well as the security of staying in touch with loved ones.

The students in Ms. Garcia’s science club elective were very motivated by knowing that the solar energy systems they are building will power lights and computers for students whose schools and homes go dark once the sun goes down. The students watched documentaries to help understand the situation in Kenya.

One of the students, Tyler Gabourie said, “it kind of hurt seeing their condition. It made me want to do the project more and see the improvement and that they don’t have to do that anymore. Even if it’s a little bit of a population… it’s more kids that won’t have to walk in the night to go study.”

He said when the class had completed the project and when the light went on, “It felt amazing because at the same time, it worked and it can go to Kenya.”

Garcia continued: “It’s hard for us to even imagine not having electricity ever. We’re not just talking we don’t have electricity because the power went out, there are no lines going to their schools or their homes. So, I really wanted (the class) to grasp that and I feel like for the most part, especially this class, (they) really understood what they were doing to have a major impact on people.”

“Subtile” unveiling: Public art piece unveiled in the Bridge District

By Michele Townsend

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On Thursday, Nov. 30, Mayor Cabaldon enthusiastically represented the City of West Sacramento in the official unveiling of a new public art piece titled SUBTILE (pronounced: subtle). This art piece marks achievements in many aspects for the city. In 1993, the City Council adopted a land use vision for the Bridge District that integrated the river and public spaces as the heart of a planned new urban-scale, infill development. Since then, the development of the River Walk has been an ongoing project. As with any major plan, the development is, and will continue to be, done in phases. This $500,000 public art piece is the next step in that development. It’s not however, the city throwing money around! There was a process and several exciting steps that occurred in order for this art piece to become a reality.

Mark Friedman, of Fulcrum Properties, co-hosted the event. Fulcrum Properties is the developers that are responsible for the construction the area that, to date, includes The Barn, the new housing units that have been built in that area, and now the placement and installation of this piece. They are the “guys” responsible for making the vision come to life throughout the Bridge District.

In 2014, West Sacramento entered into a California Competition that supports “Art and Parks” in affordable housing areas. The vision for this group is to not only to build affordable housing, but to build good neighborhoods. West Sacramento was awarded the grant that has eventually led to the construction and installation of this unique piece of art.

But the story doesn’t stop there. In May of 2015 the City of West Sacramento requested for artist proposals for a public art installation on the River Walk. This piece was to be developed for this very specific piece of land. One hundred proposals were received by the city and the artist chosen was Federico Diaz.

Federico was selected as the winner of an international contest to commission this 40-foot-tall sculpture along the Sacramento River. Federico has previous projects on display at institutions that include the Venice Biennale, CAFA Museum Beijing and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, just to name a few. His art uses new media “to reveal simple aspects of everyday reality and our natural environment which are elusive through primary human senses”. Mark Friedman explained this as “The desire to make hidden forces that descend upon us, visible.” To create this vision, Federico walked the specific site, then entered the information he gathered into an algorithm to simulate the growth of trees. He then took those results and constructed a 40x16x11ft, 40,000 pound sculpture that contains 34,000 2 inch metal, reflective discs. The sculpture is shaped to reflect the many aspects of the surrounding environment. The mayor described it as a “monumental and spectacular piece of art that will look different each time you visit it.” Those in attendance saw for themselves just how true this statement is!

As the sun set, and the art piece picked up the colors in the sky, the sculpture was a beautiful golden, and in some places almost white. But as the speeches continued, and the whistle of the train across the river sounded as well as shining the light from the train, the piece took on an entire different look. It was, in fact, quite spectacular! The vision for the growth and development may be 25 years old, but it is still moving along with great thought and excitement. Mayor Cabaldon said “This is not the first, and definitely not the last, piece of public art that will happen here.”