Conceptually thinking

Downtown’s future looks like this?

Downtown’s future looks like this?

The security guard at the Amtrak station on I Street isn’t any help finding tonight’s Think Big Sacramento town-hall meeting. He shakes his head and says he has no idea what that even is. There are no telltale crowds of purple-wearing Sacramento Kings fans to lead the way, either. After some wandering around, a small purple sign indicates a spot that must be the place.

In the room, which appropriately enough has all the charm and B.O. of a rundown gym, a standing-room crowd of about 50 listens to city officials “think big” about their plans for a play pen for the Kings and other entertainers. Actual members of the Kings and the Maloofs are elsewhere. Ominously, for some reason, there is randomly placed, leftover yellow caution tape on the floor.

The meeting focuses on the intermodal transit station, which city council approved long ago on the rail yards site. The bird’s-eye view of the rail yards plan, on a board at the front, looks like an anvil, or a kidney. The kidney theme is sort of what officials have in mind, since the proposal would ideally flush people through the site to create “an exciting urban environment.”

“We want to get people walking, and energize public spaces,” Jerry Way, head of Sacramento’s Department of Transportation, tells the crowd.

He also adds that the rail yards land, while the largest slice of unused urban real estate in the country, still isn’t large enough for what the city of Sacramento wants to build. So the arena would be squeezed against the freeway, and, controversially, the Think Big approach includes thinking small on parking, with already-in-place facilities and neighborhood parking absorbing traffic from events.

This generates skeptical grumbling from the crowd. But city officials stick to their guns, despite such unknowns as financing.

“We know these are difficult times,” says Assistant City Manager John Dangberg. “But this region needs a sports-entertainment facility, and this is a good chance to lock this down for the next 30 to 40 years.”

Perhaps keeping in mind the yellow caution tape in the corner, Dangberg also adds, “We are not proposing anything specific at all; this is at the conceptual level.” (Hugh Biggar)

Citizen dump

This newspaper was headed to the printer just as the Sacramento City Council got set to decide on a rough outline for new city council districts—part of the city’s ongoing redistricting process.

Headed into Tuesday night’s meeting, the hottest issue was city council’s apparent eagerness to dump several citizen-drawn maps and substitute new maps put forward by council members Steve Cohn and Sandy Sheedy—each more likely to protect incumbents (see “Map scrap,” SN&R Frontlines, August 4).

The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board Tuesday joined Mayor Kevin Johnson in crying foul, saying the council was “set to shame itself” with the Cohn-Sheedy plan.

That reaction was more or less predicted. One City Hall staffer, anticipating disapproval from 21st and Q streets, told SN&R earlier this month, “We’ll take the hit and move on.”

For updates on Sacramento’s map flap, go to the SN&R Snog blog at (Cosmo Garvin)