Moving past Tookie

As the media frenzy surrounding the execution of Stanley Williams fades—as Snoop Dogg and Bianca Jagger return home and CNN stops running images of San Quentin State Prison—anti-death-penalty activists will look toward January 17. That’s when California’s next execution, of death-row inmate Clarence Ray Allen, is scheduled to take place. Another could happen in February.

Next year is slated to be a busy one for the state’s death chamber. The Orange County Register newspaper reported that state officials are pushing to speed up executions and want to execute at least five people in 2006. Several San Quentin inmates are nearing the ends of their stays on death row as court appeals have been exhausted. In the case of Kevin Cooper, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has already denied a request for clemency. Cooper won a temporary stay in 2004 but since has lost court appeals.

In the decade between 1992 and 2002, an average of one inmate per year was executed in California. In the following two years, no inmate was put to death. Williams’ execution was the second this year. Donald Beardslee was killed in January.

A 50-story Epic

Still think of Sacramento as a bucolic little town?

At a recent presentation to the Design Review and Preservation Board, representatives from BCN Development detailed yet two more skyscrapers full of condos. The 50-story Epic will sit at 12th and I streets while its “sister tower” will rise up at 601 Capitol Mall. The two towers are similarly designed, with the Epic looking mostly like a slightly rounded wedge. Ground-floor cafes, floors of retail, office space and parking are integrated, but there are questions about whether enough parking is included in the current plans and whether 349 new condos will have a negative effect on the traffic heading west along I Street—including the fire engines coming from the fire station right next-door. Review-board member Wendy LaBarge noted that this building is half again as tall as the EPA building. “I wonder if Mansion Flats is ever going to see a sunny afternoon again,” she said.

The Epic is still in the planning stages, as is its partner, the 37-story Aura, which will include 283 residential condos. All together, according to the downtown Sacramento Partnership, the area gained 452 residential units between 2001 and 2005, another 974 are under construction, and 3,382 have been planned or proposed.

Can we fill that many spaces? Members of the review board, which were thrilled with the designs of the Epic and the Aura, wondered whether two such towers are enough.

The specifics of the general plan

In trying to shape the future growth of Sacramento County, administrators have been preparing to update the general plan. One of their key strategies is to revitalize established commercial corridors. Administrators recently identified 13 options and asked the board to pick among them for a pilot project.

In presenting their recommendations, staff used all the “smart growth” language, saying corridors “create vital streetscapes that are walkable and livable.” They also concentrate development, stave off the dreaded urban sprawl and decrease pollution by reducing the amount of car trips people make for key goods and services.

Staff even detailed their top three choices: Central Fair Oaks Boulevard, which includes 37 acres of vacant parcels; North Watt Avenue, with 126 acres of vacant parcels; and Florin Road, with 455 acres of vacant parcels.

But when it came down to making a decision, board member Don Nottoli suggested that staff find a way to develop two or three corridors at once, and Illa Collin and Roger Dickinson agreed, suggesting that if all their attention went to one corridor, too much of the county would continue to develop without guidance.

Staff insisted that with the labor and costs involved, they couldn’t handle planning three revitalized corridors at once. The board, however, asked staff to give it their best shot.