Emails show homeowners pressured city staff to block Sacramento River access

SACRAMENTO - Homeowners on two riverfront cul-de-sacs pressured city staff to block public access from their neighborhood to the Sacramento River for at least five years before the residents erected fences on their own.

That information is contained in scores of email exchanges dating back a decade provided by the city of Sacramento in response to a Public Records Act request from News10.

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Following crime and nuisance complaints from residents in September 2004, then-city councilman Robbie Waters' staff inquired into the possibility of blocking public access across two city parcels at the end of Chicory Bend Court and Rivershore Court that were purchased in 1987 for the Sacramento River Parkway.

Kevin Love from the the city's development services department offered the following on Sept. 23, 2004:

I would suggest constructing a chain link fence along the toe of the levee next to the back end of the cul-de-sac. The chain link fence could extend to the adjacent properties thereby restricting full public access to levee. If the chain link idea is a viable option please consider installing gates as well for emergency access to the levee.

But the following day city employee Rhonda Lake responded to the suggestion, explaining why she believed a fence was not practical:

Kevin: Thanks for the information. It's a tricky situation because the City parcels are encumbered by a "Public Recreational Use" easement. My guess is that the placement of any barrier to restrict access would be problematic. Thanks again.

In October 2004, Waters' district director Patricia Clark then asked the Department of Parks and Recreation to explore signage that would discourage visitors from accessing the river from the two cul-de-sacs:

Can you please investigate & report back whether Parks can put up signs at the end of the two referenced cul-de-sacs that say "NO RIVER ACCESS" where the cul-de-sacs meet the levee? I have parcel maps etc. if that would help. There is no legitimate river access at these cul-de-sacs and - even more relevant - there is legitimate river access just upstream at Garcia Bend Park and just downstream at Shore Park. We want to encourage people to use the legitimate access points & not to use illegitimate ones that generate nuisances & complaint calls, as well as PD calls for service.

In response to the 2004 request, official city signs were posted advising visitors there was no river access from the neighborhood.

But in July 2006, homeowner Barbara Aved, who lives at the end of Chicory Bend Court, asked for stronger wording:

What was posted by the City says "No River Access." We were hoping people would interpret that to mean that they were not to use our cul-de-sac for parking/walking up the levee to use the river but it hasn't worked out that way. The last few weeks have been particularly bad. Because my office window faces the street I'm in a position to "monitor" the comings and goings so I have a pretty good sense of volume/type of people. When we see the people on their way in we tell them to please use Garcia Bend Park and that "the City is requesting this" and a variety of other pitches to get them to access the river elsewhere, but some of the people have been defensive.

On July 27, 2006, city program specialist Michael Melvin sent the following email in response:

Dear Ms. Aved: I have been asked to respond to your recent email. You requested that the signs on your street be changed to advise people to use Garcia Bend. After a review of the area, work orders have been placed to change the existing signs to read "No river access use Garcia Bend". You should see the change within a short time.

Other emails explore the possibility of placing non-resident parking restrictions on the cul-de-sacs or having the city abandon the cul-de-sacs so residents could place gates at the entrance off Pocket Road. Neither concept was seriously pursued.

In May 2009, Aved said she would schedule a neighborhood watch meeting to discuss placing a fence across the city property with gates and keys for residents.

Waters' district director, Pat Clark, offered the following caution in an email dated May 28, 2009:

It is not as simple as just putting up a gate even if it does fit the physics of your street.

Less than three months later in response to a follow-up inquiry from Clark on Aug. 18, Aved informed Clark that a fence had been erected at the base of Chicory Bend Court and a second one was in the works for Rivershore Court:

Have you seen our new fence by the levee? It seems to be doing the job. You may be interested to know we're "consultants" to neighbors on the next street over (Rivershore) as they begin to organize to see if their neighborhood will support putting up a fence.

In August 2010, retired Cal Fire regional chief Gary Buzzini, who lives around the corner from the two cul-de-sacs, began asking city staff questions about the fences.

City employee Mary de Beauvieres asked a colleague to investigate what she assumed was a fence on private property:

Needing to make sure it is on the property line between private / public land – is there a plot plan to show its location?

Barbara Aved declined a request for an interview, but provided News10 with a 2012 petition spearheaded by a neighbor across the street, Jim Gonzalez, and signed by 37 residents of the two cul-de-sacs.

The petition claims the residents received "guidance and cooperation" from the city to erect the levee fences and protests what it says is the arbitrary withdrawal of the cooperation without due process.

City councilman Darrell Fong, who replaced Waters, said steps were being taken to remove the fences and the delay was caused by their proximity to the levee.

The Central Valley Flood Protection Board (CVFPB) confirmed in an email to News10 the fences would have required levee encroachment permits and none were ever issued.

"Now that CVFPB staff is aware of these unpermitted encroachments in our easement, we will initiate enforcement action against the landowners that allowed construction of the unpermitted fences," CVFPB board representative Alison Tang wrote.


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