RT’s squeaky wheels

One of Sacramento’s oldest neighborhoods is asking that Sacramento Regional Transit (RT) pay more attention to its local station.

On an overcast evening last week, 30 local residents stood in a leaf-covered parking lot on E Street next to the Alkali Flats/La Valentina light-rail station. Train cars moved up 12th Street while residents told representatives from RT, the city police, and the city council that the station had been the site of numerous crimes: drug deals, threats, even homicides.

Residents asked for improved lighting at the station, improved disability access, surveillance cameras and a greater security presence. They asked that improvements be made not only for themselves, but for the elderly residents who eventually will move in to the renovated Globe Mills plant across the street.

Some issues already were under consideration. An RT representative said that cameras would be installed at all RT stations within the next 18 months.

Lighting, however, will probably have to be worked out with the Olson Company, a developer building 35 townhomes facing the station. Those homes will cut down on open space where loitering occurs and put a lot more eyes on the station.

But because of the meeting, one of the community’s concerns was handled immediately. A security guard had been manning the station from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week, leaving it dark and threatening after eight.

Now, the station will have security from noon to midnight.

Family portraits

Sacramento is trying out a heartwarming project that started in Santa Fe, N.M., in 2001, but captured the attention of national media and spread throughout the country. On Saturday, November 5, Sacramento opens its own Heart Gallery exhibit, a show of professional photographs of children awaiting adoption. The opening takes place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the CSUS University Library Gallery, and the exhibit features 40 photos of Sacramento children in the foster-care system. The photos will be up throughout the month of November, but the opening is your chance to talk with adoption specialists and even meet a couple of the children photographed.

According to Laurie Slothower of Child Protective Services, “In Sacramento County anywhere between 700 and 1100 children need permanent, loving homes. In the region, the number swells to 2,500.”

Parking politics

Think of it as behavior modification, parking-enforcement style.

By the first of the year, free parking after 6 p.m. at meters in the central city will be a thing of the past.

As part of Sacramento’s Central City Parking Master Plan, the city council voted eight to zero on October 25 to extend meter enforcement beyond the current 6 p.m. time frame in the area from 14th to 19th streets and J Street to Capitol Avenue. The extension also applies to residential street parking in the area as well.

City planners contend street spaces aren’t being used efficiently enough in their present form. “We’re trying to create turnover on the streets,” said Fran Halbakken, project manager for the master plan. “Employees are coming in at 4 p.m. and plugging the meter for two hours, and staying there far beyond after 6 p.m. when we don’t enforce any longer. Therefore, those spaces aren’t available for the customers coming down to enjoy retail, entertainment, restaurants, etc. Basically, we’re trying to encourage longer-term parkers to use surface lots so more on-street parking is available for shorter use.”

Though no opposition was presented at council, the news wasn’t immediately met with good cheer by all restaurant management.

“It’s hard enough to park down here,” said one manager at P.F. Chang’s China Bistro at 16th and J streets, who asked that his name not be used because “parking is a political issue.”

While conceding that both the city and restaurants win by increasing turnover, the manager said metered parking is “financially draining” on his employees and a safety issue for both them and patrons as well. He thinks parking structures offering financial discounts to workers would be a “good thing.”

Initially, Halbakken said, meter enforcement at the 200 meters would extend to 8 p.m. After a period of monitoring, the city will decide whether an extension to 9 p.m. or beyond is warranted or whether other adjustment is needed.