Wealthy NIMBY's powerhouse lobbyist fails to stonewall new East Sacramento senior-care facility

City Council overrules appeal to stall new home

Claims that out-of-state money helped petition gatherers drum up phony opposition recycled through City Hall last week. But this time it had nothing to do with sports arenas.

In a unanimous vote on January 7, the Sacramento City Council overruled the appeal of Ted Wells, an East Sacramento architect represented by a former politician, who claimed his neighborhood’s narrow streets and traffic problems couldn’t abide a new three-story assisted-living facility for the elderly.

The senior-home applicant’s legal representative, Brian Holloway, characterized Wells, a traveling architect who occasionally resides in a house behind the property, as a deep-pocketed, Washington-state outsider who helped neighborhood petitioners gather 200-odd signatures against the 32-bed facility.

“The irony of this one is spellbinding,” he said. While Holloway quipped that the money wasn’t from hedge-fund billionaire Chris Hansen, “It is the same intent, and the intent is to prevent a needed and desired community-serving facility.”

More than a dozen residents voiced disapproval for the project at a planning commission meeting this past October. Last Tuesday, 14 speakers expressed similar worries to the city council during a 95-minute hearing. Ironically, most were in the 60-and-up age bracket the facility is designed for.

Alberto Torrico, an ex-East Bay assemblyman turned registered lobbyist, appeared on behalf of Wells, whose H Street home sits behind the project site.

In one of the night’s meatier exchanges, Councilwoman Angelique Ashby pressed Torrico to explain how often his client actually resides in East Sac.

“He doesn’t live in the home full time,” Torrico replied. “He travels a lot for his business, which is all over the country. But it is one of his homes.”

“So, is the home vacant?” Ashby asked.

Torrico: “No, it is not vacant. He uses it on occasion.”

Ashby: “Like, on occasion, what?”

Torrico: (Smiles.) “I don’t know. I don’t know how often he’s there.”

City planner Stacia Cosgrove said the city’s general plan encourages the development of senior-care facilities, especially in neighborhoods with access to transit and health care. The building lot is on I Street, in what’s known as the Alhambra corridor, near Regional Transit, three hospitals and a number of medical offices, and a block from McKinley Park.

“This site … will provide safe and proximate care for East Sacramento seniors in need of its services,” Cosgrove said. “The very minor potential increase in on-street parking will not change the character of the neighborhood.”

Council members agreed, approving the project after a motion from Councilman Steve Cohn, who represents the neighborhood. Cohn brushed aside Holloway’s claim about paid petition gatherers and sympathized with residents’ desire to downsize the facility to two stories. But that idea was scrapped when it became clear it would result in the loss of a planned memory-care unit on the third floor.

There are six other residential-care facilities in East Sacramento, but none with a memory-care unit for those experiencing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.