<strong>The Outdoors Next Door:</strong> Exploring The Yolo Bypass

The Outdoors Next Door: Exploring The Yolo Bypass

By Thomas Farley If you want to get outdoors but don’t have much time, the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is a perfect place to go. It is essentially the entire area visible More »

West Sacramento’s port is on a path of profitability

West Sacramento’s port is on a path of profitability

By Thomas Farley Has the Port of West Sacramento’s ship come in? Or is it still at sea? The landmark facility alongside Industrial Boulevard has struggled for years to keep afloat financially, More »

New West Sac water restrictions allow for watering just once a week

New West Sac water restrictions allow for watering just once a week

The West Sacramento City Council has given City Manager Martin Tuttle authority to declare a stage 3 Water Shortage Contingency Plan in order to reach the mandatory 28% water use reduction required More »


Dog bite: officials looking for dog


Yolo officials are looking for a dog and its owner after a delivery driver was bit on Friday near 807 Elder Drive in West Sacramento. The incident occurred at about 3:30 p.m.

According to the Animal Services Section of the sheriff’s department, the driver dropped off a package at an Elder Drive home, when two loose dogs came from a driveway in an area with a 3-4 foot high fence, and attacked him. The victim was unable to identify the dogs’ owner.

The dog that bit the driver was described as a brown brindle pit bull with cropped ears. It was with a black and white pit bull.

The biting dog needs to be examined for rabies.

Anyone with information is asked to call (530) 668-5287 (available 24 hours/day) or email animal.bite@yolocounty.org.

Scholarships for high school volunteers


The Yolo Community Foundation is looking to honor local high school seniors who have volunteered with a Yolo nonprofit for at least 60 hours during their junior or senior years of high school. Winners will receive a $1,000 scholarship and a Yolo Youth Service Award; the nonprofit they support will receive $500.

Deadline to apply is March 19. For information, visit www.yolocf.org, email info@yolocf.org, or call (530) 312-0593.

‘Not too tall’: U-Haul fights on, takes its signage rights to court

U-Haul may have the last major out-of-compliance pole sign in West Sacramento’s business district, after a new city ordinance took effect in 2008. (News-Ledger photo)

NEWS-LEDGER — FEB 8, 2012 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

There was a time when West Capitol Avenue was a glitzy and fairly prosperous thoroughfare, decorated with jet-set era neon lights that were designed to entice travelers to spend the night or pull over for a bite or a drink.

Then, after a freeway came in nearby in the ‘50s, the through-traffic on West Capitol slowed to a trickle. After the ‘50s, there were quicker ways to get from San Francisco to, say, Sacramento or Lake Tahoe. So a lot of the motels, restaurants and other attractions on the strip began to show their age – and so did their billboards, pole signs and “whirlybird” signs.

As part of a drive to clean up the strip, the West Sacramento city council in the late ‘90s adopted a new sign ordinance, giving businesses downtown 20 years to phase out their old, too-tall or too-big signs and replace them with something more modest. All of them have – except one, city code enforcement officer Larry Brooks told the News-Ledger last August.

“All the other businesses agreed to take down their pole signs and put up monument signs to comply,” said Brooks. “U-Haul (at 1750 West Capitol) has just always maintained it just could not come into compliance like all other businesses.”

Brook’s office cited U-Haul for failing to comply last year. The Arizona-based company appealed to a city hearing board, and lost. Now, U-Haul has filed a “writ of mandate” in Yolo County Superior Court, asking the court to tell West Sacramento to leave the sign alone.

Jeff Aran, a Sacramento sign law attorney, said he has represented the company on a number of other cases – and he is confident the company’s pole sign will still be up when the legal dust settles on the West Sacramento sign case.

“There’s a state law that specifically says, despite whatever ordinance a city has, if a business is going to suffer a material loss of visibility to comply, it doesn’t have to bring its sign into compliance,” Aran told the News-Ledger on Monday. “I’ve represented U-Haul on a number of these cases.”

How did those work out?

“The signs are still standing.”
The problem with the West Sacramento property, said Aran, is that U-Haul’s truck rental customers may have trouble finding the facility to pick up or return a vehicle, and they may be looking for it at night. The pole sign – which Aran estimated at 35 feet tall – is needed so they can spot U-Haul and safely pull onto the property.

Aran said the company has tried to work with the code enforcement department to explain its visibility issues or craft a compromise, but that the city hasn’t cooperated.

“The issue for us is that U-Haul wants to be a good corporate citizen,” said Aran. “It’s not like we haven’t tried to figure out a solution.”

The News-Ledger took a look at the sign from the east (approaching from Jefferson Boulevard) and also  from the west (from Harbor).

It looked like a shorter sign (at the 12-foot legal maximum) might be partly screened by the company’s own trucks in its parking lot. On the other hand, the existing tall sign might already be hard to spot from the westbound lanes during some seasons, because of the tree canopy on the median.

  “We got into a big truck and came down West Capitol Avenue from both directions, and spotted the sign,” said Larry Brooks of the city’s code enforcement department in August. “It is our contention that the (current) sign cannot be seen by most drivers anyway, because of the tree canopy. In this day and age of smart phones and GPS, drivers already know which way to turn.”

A clutter of signs competed for attention on West Capitol Avenue, creating what an early city council called “visual blight.” This photo shows signage on the 1700-block of West Capitol years ago, before the new sign ordinance took effect. (News-Ledger file photo, undated)

Aran argued that either the city’s sign ordinance, or its enforcement, might be too selective. For example, a McDonalds near U-Haul sports a very tall flagpole with an American flag at the top – and a McDonald’s flag just under it.

“These are the kinds of exceptions they’ve made for their preferred free speech,” said Aran.

The Yolo courts have not yet set a hearing date for the issue.

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Care to comment on the U-Haul signage debate? You can do that by visiting the same article at our sister site, WestSac.com. We may borrow your comment for publication in the News-Ledger.

Lengthy sentence for 2009 murder


District Attorney Jeff Reisig announced that on January 13, Yolo County Superior Court Judge Stephen Mock sentenced 31-year-old Christopher Allen Smith of West Sacramento to 45 years-to-life in state prison for murdering Gidd Gomel Robinson IV on November 3, 2009.

According to the Yolo D.A.’s office:

Shortly after noon that day, Smith was driving with his seven-year-old son in his pick-up truck after leaving his father’s house in West Sacramento.  Smith, who is white,  encountered Robinson, an African American, who was walking his children to school.  After Robinson gave Smith a “hard stare” and Smith “flipped him off,” Smith drove his truck around the corner on Jasmine Avenue and loaded his gun.  Robinson approached the truck and some kind of confrontation occurred. Smith fired one shot at Robinson.

Police responded to the report of a “man down” on the 400-block of Jasmine. Robinson was transported to a hospital with a fatal gunshot wound to the abdomen.

Smith immediately drove to the Elkhorn boat ramp and tossed the gun in the river and rubbed mud on his hands to conceal any gunshot residue.  He was arrested on Old River Road as he was leaving the boat ramp.  Detectives seized a computer from Smith’s home which was later forensically analyzed by the District Attorney’s Computer Forensics Unit.  That analysis revealed that Smith habitually visited racist websites containing inflammatory pictures and articles about African Americans.

During his trial, Smith claimed self-defense and said Robinson had a gun, but police did not find a gun near the victim.

Investigators found over 40 firearms in Smith’s home.

  Robinson’s fiancé Jennifer Richardson gave an impassioned victim impact statement during the sentencing hearing.  “This horrific tragedy has made me become so much stronger than I could’ve ever imagined,” said Richardson.  “Mr. Smith stole the life of my fiancé, my best friend, the daddy to my babies. Over these past 2 years I’ve had to learn how to become the single mother that I never thought I would be.”

Chief Deputy District Attorney, Jonathan Raven, prosecuted the case.  He praised the dedicated efforts of West Sacramento Police Department, the DA’s Computer Forensics Division, and the DA’s Victim Services Division who worked with the family of Gidd Robinson.  He also thanked the jury who spent three days deliberating on the case.  “The jury was thoughtful and worked hard to bring about a just verdict,” said Raven in a press release.  “I know that Gidd’s family feels that justice was served.”

  Support local journalism, and see all our articles every week! Subscribe to the News-Ledger.  It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, delivered to your mailboxl.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Public-private partnership builds rail spur for cement plant, port

At the ribbon-cutting: West Sacramento City Councilmember Mark Johannessen, Mayor Pro Tem Oscar Villegas, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director (and program MC) Denice Seals, SACOG Executive Director Mike McKeever, Port Chair and Yolo County Supervisor Mike McGowan, Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, City Manager Toby Ross, and Port Director Mike Luken. (Photo: Dan Harris, City of West Sacramento)

NEWS-LEDGER — FEB 8, 2012–

On Jan. 25, the Port of West Sacramento opened a new rail track extension that links the Port Main Terminal with the Cemex cement and aggregate facility near the Port. The 5,000 foot track segment is also capable of serving other rail customers.

Built through a public-private partnership between the City of West Sacramento, Cemex and Sierra Northern Railroad at a cost of $2 million, the extension is meant to allow easier transport of material, create new jobs and provide the Port a revenue source from additional railcar movement, according to the City of West Sacramento. Rail service is provided to the Cemex facility by Sierra Northern.

“This is an important project for the Port as it will allow multiple rail providers to serve Port users in a competitive environment and help ensure that the Cemex facility can operate at full capacity,” said Mike McGowan, chair of the Sacramento-Yolo Port Commission, in a City press release.

The project was a public-private partnership between the City of West Sacramento, Cemex, and Sierra Northern Railroad. Project funding was also supported by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) and Caltrans District 3 Local Assistance.

Copyright News-Ledger-2012

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Father/daughter community dance


Fathers and daughters of all ages are invited to a “Night of Enchantment.”

Two dates for this “Masquerade Ball”: attend either Friday, Feb. 24 or Saturday, Feb. 25, from 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. This semi-formal “Night of Enchantment” comes with a dinner buffet, a DJ and dancing in the Galleria of the West Sacramento Civic Center, 1110 West Capitol Ave. Prom-style photos will be available for an additional fee.

Registration: fathers $35, daughter(s) $15 each, daughter(s) age 3 and younger are free. Registration is now open at the community center (1075 West Capitol Avenue) or the Recreation Center next to River City High School on Raider Lane. Deadline to register is Friday, Feb. 17.

For more information, call the Parks & Recreation Dept., (916) 617-4620.

Copyright News-Ledger

Nonprofits: interested in selling fireworks?


Is your non-profit organization interested in selling fireworks this season?  Come meet with City staff and fireworks wholesaler representatives to see if it’s right for your organization.  An informational workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 21, at 6 p.m. at the city hall galleria, 1110 West Capitol Avenue.

Topics to be discussed:  the vendor lottery process, permit process, and the sales of fireworks.

The seller permit lottery filing period will be open from March 1-31.

For more information, contact West Sacramento City Clerk Kryss Rankin at (916) 617-4500.