City is challenging judge’s disapproval of gas station vote

The question of whether a 16-pump gas station may be built in the Crocker Village development won’t be settled soon, as City Council has asked an appeals court to review a Sacramento Superior Court order for a new vote on the project within 60 days.

On Jan. 3, Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled that Councilmember Jay Schenirer demonstrated “an unacceptable probability of actual bias” and failed to act in an open-minded manner before the Council voted 7-2 in 2015 to deny developer Paul Petrovich a conditional use permit for the gas station. The judge’s order was posted on SCNA’s website, www.sierra2.org, the day it was issued.

Jay Schenirer (center) listens as Paul Petrovich (standing at lower right) shows a map of the planned development at the Nov. 17, 2015 City Council meeting.

The judge’s decision didn’t comment on the merits of whether the permit should have been granted. Instead, the judge pointed to text messages between Schenirer and SCNA President Eric Johnson as evidence that Schenirer had made up his mind about the project before the hearing.

“We look forward to a positive outcome of the appeal, and the eventual evolution of Crocker Village into the pedestrian-, bicycle- and community-friendly development it is meant to be. As Princess Leia so presciently stated, ‘It’s not over yet.’”

The judge wrote that when the Council hears an appeal, it is required to conduct a judicial-style hearing where councilmembers don’t advocate for or against the project. The judge said Schenirer violated his duty of neutrality by “coaching” Johnson on how to lobby Council members against the permit.

Council voted 6-0 in closed session Jan. 9 to appeal the judge’s decision. Those in favor of filing an appeal included both councilmembers who voted in 2015 to issue a conditional use permit, Allen Warren and Larry Carr, as well as Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who was not in city government at the time of the original vote. Councilmembers Angelique Ashby, Eric Guerra and Schenirer didn’t participate in the vote concerning the appeal.

Asked by Viewpoint why Council appealed rather than simply taking another vote, Assistant City Attorney Matthew Ruyak said, “The Council considered the scope and approach of this ruling and the implications it may have on current and future projects. They decided that the short term and long-term interests of the city are best served by an appeal.”

Dueling essays by Petrovich and Schenirer appeared in The Sacramento Bee on Jan. 11. Petrovich called the city’s appeal “a waste of money and a slap in the face of every taxpayer in this city.” Schenirer wrote that he had kept an open mind but he would “never back down from representing my constituents in the most deliberate and transparent manner, or providing them with full access to my office.”

Johnson also weighed in: “The SCNA board was disappointed in Judge Kenny’s ruling, and heartened by the City Council’s unanimous decision to appeal,” said Johnson. “We look forward to a positive outcome of the appeal, and the eventual evolution of Crocker Village into the pedestrian-, bicycle- and community-friendly development it is meant to be. As Princess Leia so presciently stated, ‘It’s not over yet.’”

Categorized: Blog, Crocker Village, Neighborhood News, Viewpoint