Arden-area neighbors lob more conflict-of-interest allegations against county supervisor

Residents say Susan Peters cares more about developers than them

At least two opponents of a low-income apartment complex slated for their Arden Arcade neighborhood have leveled conflict-of-interest charges against their representative, Sacramento County Supervisor Susan Peters. The affordable-housing development is the latest flashpoint for Peters, whose critics say she backs cheap development at the expense of their working-class district.

“She’s in bed with whatever developer comes through the door,” said Michael Seaman, a resident of nearby Cottage Park. “We know that.”

By that, Seaman means that Arden Arcade has become a dumping ground for massage parlors, liquor stores and other unwanted projects that drive up crime and lower property values.

“We’ve complained to her directly without any success,” said Arden Arcade native Sara Jensen. She says she’s now too scared to walk the neighborhood where she and her husband just purchased their first home.

“We’re tired of the downward spiral of development,” Seaman added. “We used to have banks. Now we have check-cashing stores. We used to have department stores. Now we have 99 Cents stores. We used to have restaurants. Now we have fast food.”

In an emailed statement, Peters said there are signs that new investment is starting to perk up Arden Arcade’s fortunes following the recession. “In fact the intersection of Marconi and Fulton looks so much better as a result of private investment that has resulted in new fresh buildings at Muller Corner,” she wrote.

The latest development in question is a 148-unit apartment complex slated for a vacant, rectangular parking lot on Butano Drive. Butano Apartments, as it’s called, would erect a quartet of three-story buildings in a “pod-like” design, surrounding a 3,700-square-foot clubhouse and swimming pool. The single-story clubhouse would house a fitness studio and planned after-school program, according to the Community Development Department’s staff report. Rachel Green, development manager at project applicant Anton Development Company, said the workforce housing project “will bring much vitality to the community.”

While acknowledging the need for affordable housing, Seaman and his fellow neighborhood critics say the county is segregating it all in one area with limited job opportunities and substandard public transit options. “It’s very simplistic to say, ‘Oh, these are NIMBY people who don’t want low-income housing in their neighborhood,” he said. “The truth is we’re surrounded.”

Despite a recommended no-vote and a threatened appeal from its Arden Arcade advisory council, the county’s Planning Commission last month ruled the project was in compliance with zoning and residential guidelines, setting up a January 27 showdown this week before supervisors.

Seaman and Del Paso Manor resident Carl Dolk say Peters should recuse herself next week because of her connection to Anton’s founder and president, Steve Eggert.

Both Peters and Eggert served on a finance committee for Republican Doug Ose’s unsuccessful congressional campaign last year, while Eggert was one of 49 hosts of a fundraising committee for Peters’ 2012 reelection bid. In 2005, Peters named Eggert her alternate on the Sacramento Transportation Authority Board. That “long-standing relationship between Eggert the developer and Peters the public official” creates reasonable doubt about the supervisor’s impartiality, Seaman contended.

He pointed to a still-open investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission, which is looking into whether Peters’ should have recused herself from voting on dozens of projects around Mather Field because of her ownership interests there.

Reached separately, Peters and Green said they would defer to the county counsel’s recommendation. Green added that her boss “has been active in the Sacramento community for many years, so it’s no surprise that his path crossed with Supervisor Peters.”

According to the California Code of Regulations, “a public official has a conflict of interest if the decision will have a reasonably foreseeable material financial effect on one or more of his/her economic interests.”

Even if no direct financial tether exists, Seaman and Dolk argue that Eggert’s campaign support sets up the perception of a quid-pro-quo.

Seaman says he’d settle for supervisors delaying a vote until an environmental review can be conducted. He would also like county staff to unite business interests, affordable housing stakeholders and local residents to discuss a collaborative vision for the Arden Arcade area.

County officials say the project is exempt from California Environmental Quality Act review.