The Citrus Heights Sentinal published an article yesterday about how the City of Citrus Heights is poised to stop willy-nilly development at Sunrise Mall. Specifically, the City intends to temporarily suspend land use entitlements at the mall site - entitlements inherited from Sacramento County when the City took over land use control almost 25 years ago. The entitlements currently enable developers to build commercial buildings around the periphery of the site, known as “pads”. The land uses around the mall at Sunrise and Greenback are intensely auto-oriented commercial uses that generate a lot of short-term, in-and-out vehicle trips which have made traffic in the area a source of frustration for customers. That frustration seems to exacerbate the conflicts between online shopping vs. brick-and-mortar retail sales. And since Citrus Heights is very, very concerned about the sales taxes generated by brick-and-mortar retail, the City is understandably worried about the demise of Sunrise Mall, where 30% of the retail space is vacant. The City is apprehensive about pads with low tax-generating businesses like a thrift-goods drop-off, a cell phone store, a nail salon or a fast-food restaurant likely to accelerate the Mall’s downward spiral and worsen the City’s sales tax prospects. Besides, it’s not like Citrus Heights has a shortage of thrift stores, cell phone places, nail salons or fast-food joints. By calling the time-out, the City is essentially saying it needs to determine the long-term best ways (for everyone) to develop the site and not just pander to the short-term profit tactic (for a handful of developers).
Compare that approach with Sacramento County’s free-market-knows-best modus operandi that elevates expediency for developers above meeting needs for the community. In Arden Arcade, the County’s “something is better than nothing” way of doing things has brought us a plethora of alcohol to-go licenses, thrift stores, usury loan places, discount stores and X-rated massage parlors. We have an over-abundance of fast-food joints and casual dining spots, which means you have to go somewhere else (like Midtown or Downtown Sacramento) for vibrant businesses, a variety of good restaurants or even a brew pub. And we have plenty of vacant strip malls that can cause grief to everyone except the landowner who takes tax write-offs. All of this comes down to a lack of vision on the County’s part, which stands in direct contrast with the City of Citrus Heights’ assertion that the kind of development matters a lot to a community. The Citrus Heights City Council is slated to vote on the temporary land use measure later this week.