Today the Board of Supervisors heard a proposal to put a car sales business on a 1/2 acre lot on Marconi between Howe and Business 80. Anybody who drives through that area knows the traffic congestion there is often miserable. Long ago a house on the property was converted to a business and the lot was paved with asphalt. Over the years the site has morphed from one business to another such that the current property owner has to deal with homeless people using the building as a crash pad. That's not a good situation.
To its credit, County Planning staff said the proposed solution - revising the 43 year old Arden Arcade Community Plan and granting a use permit to allow car sales there - was contrary to the Plan and should be denied. But they hastened to point out that the Arden Arcade Community Planning Advisory Council (CPAC) and the County Planning Commission had recommended approval. The CPAC, they said, "reached out to the community for input" (No, they did not, and anyway, they have a history of ignoring the community. We could be wrong. Please let us know if you were invited to comment.) The Planning Commission, which consists of 1 member appointed by each Supervisor, has proven itself over the years to be largely clueless about Arden Arcade. And they tend to meet at a time and place that's truly inconvenient for people in our community (5:30pm on Mondays in downtown Sacramento). It is no surprise they approved the proposal. The Supervisors avoided the staff recommendation and opted to go with the CPAC and Planning Commission recommendations.
The smooth-talking consultant the property owner hired said that the site was big enough for car sales because it already has 13 parking spaces (!) and adjacent properties will benefit because trees will be planted along the rear and in some pretty planter boxes. He also said the trucks used to haul cars to and from the site will park at the auto repair shop next door, which closes at 6pm. That would make this little dealership the only one in the whole area with timed deliveries that won't conflict with traffic. The consultant also promised that the outdoor lighting will not be obnoxious (anyone know a car lot with muted lighting?). Thing is, the County has proven it isn't very good at enforcing the planning conditions it imposes. So, the bottom line is that we will be getting yet another marginal car sales business on an undersized lot that will add to the low-end appearance and reputation of our community.
It is really too bad the Supervisors put themselves in this position. For years they have shined us on about any kind of legitimate plan for our community, which is very different from the one that existed when the Community Plan was fresh and new almost 1/2 a century ago. The Community Action Plan, adopted in 2006 before most of this year's HS grads were born, promised civic engagement for neighborhoods and the community - something never implemented. They deferred to their appointees on the CPAC and the Planning Commission, neither of which has a track record of listening behavior or sensitivity to the community. And they debated new project conditions from the dais, i.e. did staff work on the fly - a questionable way for the Supervisors to perform. And for what? It's not like a car lot with 12 cars to sell at a time is some kind of economic bonanza for the County, especially with their history of giving away 1/2 of the sales tax revenues to the City of Sacramento.
But this is the Kingdom of Lack of Vision, isn't it? We have no local control. Our own Supervisor, Rich Desmond, has publicly acknowledged that the County isn't able to handle municipal affairs. We have come to expect the Supervisors to do whatever a developer proposes, no matter what. This time, though, the staff gave them cover. The Supervisors did not have to cave. But, hey, if the City of Sacramento is OK with a tiny used car lot across the street (in an odd part of the City of Sacramento), maybe the Supervisors just wanted to keep up with the Steinbergs. We'll see how it all turns out.