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Typical behavior from Sac County Planning Commission

September 15, 2015

On 09/14/2015 the Sacramento County Planning Commission did what everyone expected them to do -- approve a developer's proposal while demonstrating a lack of concern for citizen input. This kind of cavalier attitude is how Sacramento County rolls, and that won't change unless a lot of us work hard to bring about a paradigm shift.

In the meantime, here's what happened at the Planning Commission: the developer asked for, and was granted, permission for 1) a Use Permit Amendment having to do with the replacement of the 4,000 seat domed-theater complex with a 1,540 seat big-box theater building, 2) a Special Development Permit to allow "deviations" (AKA "variances", which under state law require specific evidence and findings the the Planning Commission chose to ignore) from development standards concerning parking standards, building signage and building height and 3) Design Review "to comply with the commercial and mixed-use guidelines" (odd, since the County's General Plan seeks mixed-use, but the developer is adamantly opposed to it). Testimony against the project was given by people from the Advocates for Arden Arcade and from the film arts community of the Sacramento Region. The Country Club Alliance of Neighborhoods testified in favor.

Remember the Alhambra Theater that was torn down for a Safeway? This project is a little bit like that. The mid-century modernist domes will be torn down. Complaints about the Demolition Permit were rejected by the Commission, which showed zero interest in the concept of historic preservation. No environmental analysis was performed because the County only looked at the downsizing of the theater and did not evaluate the traffic or other aspects of the large-scale remodel of the site. BTW, there will be more traffic lights on Arden, Howe and Ethan, streets that are already messed up. Review by the Cultural Arts Committee (required the the General Plan) did not take place because the Committee doesn't exist. One of the Planning Commissioners asked about security considerations for the long backside of the new theater building and was told that by County staff that the Sheriff had not weighed in (IOW, "trust us").  While it is good to see a private developer invest money locally, one has to wonder about private back-room deals that may have been done prematurely such that citizen input could be ignored in such a cavalier manner.

The Planning Commissioners are all appointees of the Supervisors and generally do as they are told.  The Planning Commission's decision can be appealed to the Board of Supervisors. As of this writing it is not known whether the decision will be appealed.

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Photo courtesy of Preserve the Legacy of the Century Theaters
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