Tuesday, December 18, 2007

City authorizes eminent domain proceedings for K Street properties

'bout time...

I do hope the two sides can come to agreement, but this does give the city another tool to finally get something done on those two blocks.

During public comment, Sid Heberger from The Crest sounded like she wanted to reach over and hurt Moe.

Either way, its going to be a hell of a fight. There are other problems on that stretch, but this is by far in my mind the biggest.


K Street battle headed to court
Taking action against blight, the City Council votes to force big landowner to sell his properties.

Saying the blight on K Street has festered for too long, Sacramento City Council members brushed aside threats of a drawn out courtroom battle, voting unanimously Tuesday to start the legal process of forcing landowner Moe Mohanna to sell his properties there.

At the close of a bruising four-hour public hearing, Mayor Heather Fargo said she still hopes the city can reach an amicable settlement with Mohanna, but needs to have the tool of eminent domain at its disposal.

"The message that this sends is that the city of Sacramento is serious about K Street," Fargo said after the 9-0 vote. "K Street is going to be a retail street that people in Sacramento will be proud of, and we will do whatever it takes to get there."

he next step is for the city to convince a Sacramento Superior Court that the use of eminent domain is justified. Then, it would be up to a jury to decide how much the city would have to pay Mohanna for his nine properties on two of the bleakest blocks on the K Street Mall.

At Tuesday's hearing, four lawyers appeared on behalf of Mohanna and other partners in his properties. They challenged the city's characterization of the events leading up to the vote, saying they would use 13 different legal arguments to challenge it.

"You're going to lose … and it's guaranteed whichever way it comes out you're going to be in court a long time," said lawyer Myron Moskovitz.

"Your staff told you this is a way to speed this up, this is a way to get the downtown going quicker. It's exactly the opposite. This is the way to slow things down."

Moskovitz said his client should be given the chance to redevelop his own properties. "Moe's ready to go. He's ready to develop on his own."

A parade of prominent downtown developers, business people and civic leaders, however, urged the city to do whatever it takes – including exercising eminent domain – to move forward with redevelopment.

Joe Zeiden, owner of the Z Gallerie, plans to convert the historic buildings in the 700 block into a row that includes upscale retailers such as Sur La Table, Z Gallerie and Anthropologie.

Zeiden attended the hearing but didn't speak. His lawyer, Richard Hyde, told the council that "this city is fortunate to have a developer of this quality willing to take an interest in and redevelop K Street."

David Taylor, downtown's most prominent high-rise developer, said the picture was bleak. "I've never been more discouraged about K Street than I am right now, and I'm fearful that if you don't do anything tonight, you'll be in exactly the same spot that you're in five years from now, 10 years from now," he said. Taylor is a member of the team currently converting the old Woolworth store at 10th and K streets into a live theater and restaurant.

Rick Braziel, the city's new police chief appointee, said crime on that end of the mall has doubled in the past 10 years, mainly because of drug offenses and theft. "The 700 and 800 blocks of K Street are in need of an immediate and significant transformation from a public safety perspective," he said.

Also urging the city to authorize eminent domain were the operators of the Crest Theatre and the new Ella Dining Room and Bar on the K Street Mall.

Randall Selland, whose family owns Ella, came to the meeting in his chef's smock. He said the city needs more destination tenants, not more "lunch spots."

"It doesn't mean a little paint and spackle, which is what you've got going on now," Selland said. "You need something big."

A year ago, the city had in hand a signed deal with Mohanna and Zeiden to move forward with redevelopment on the two blocks. Mohanna had agreed to swap his properties on the 700 block with an equal amount of property on the 800 block. The city has spent more than $24 million to help Zeiden by acquiring properties that could be swapped with Mohanna's.

But a fire over Thanksgiving weekend in 2006 destroyed one of Mohanna's buildings in the 800 block. The city responded by declaring that the other buildings on the block were now dangerous and had to be knocked down.

Suddenly, Mohanna was faced with swapping a row of intact buildings on the 700 block with a hole in the ground on the 800 block. He balked, and the city is now fighting him in court to force him to follow through with the deal. City officials say the plan was always to demolish the buildings on the 800 block and build a new structure. But Mohanna had been hoping to rent them out until a development project made economic sense.

Mohanna and city leaders have been negotiating, but they have yet to agree on a new set of terms that would persuade Mohanna to go forward with the swap.

"If we had heard from Mr. Mohanna that he was willing to follow through," Fargo said, "we would not be here today."

Mohanna's representatives characterized the situation differently, saying the two sides had been close to agreement on a development project for the 800 block when the city played the eminent domain card. A meeting had been scheduled for January.

"Moe was furious, but he was still willing to go through with the meeting in January," Moskovitz said. "After today, I don't know."

The Metropolitan

On December 19th the Design Commission will possibly approve the Metropolitan for construction giving John Saca another chance to prove he is a big time developer. The proposal will be either 320 residential condominium units or 190 residential condominium units and 190 hotel rooms.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Hole on Capitol Mall

I took these photos last week showing some of the changes at the site. These billboards have been put up on every corner and are most likely going to have a mural on them to liven up the area. They have also cleaned up the construction site so that the $20 million already spent on piles and foundation work won't rot away over the next couple years. I hope the new proposal has some residential... more office space at this location so close to the river would be a waist.

Time will tell...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Going Places...

No midtown penthouse slump

Sacramento Business Journal
December 7, 2007

It's easier to sell a million-dollar home right now than one priced half that much, noted Sotiris Kolokotronis, the developer behind the L Street Loftsin Midtown, while giving a tour of the ballyhooed building that's nearing completion. When he launched the project, his colleagues told him he'd sellout before the paint dried. They were partly right. All but one of the 12 penthouses, priced at $749,990,have been sold in advance of completion -- including two of them to a buyer who plans to turn them into one large suite. But sales of the other units, starting at $389,990, haven't been as brisk. A total of 36 of the project's 92 units have been sold, according to HanleyWood Market Intelligence. The lofts will be largely finished by the end of theyear. Sales are still ahead of projected rates when the project wasenvisioned, Kolokotronis said.


Numbers like these should bode well for getting more high-end housing built in midtown. I've been lucky enough to go on a tour of the L Street Lofts and the penthouses are amazing. Not only is the view impressive but the layout of the two level floor plans are unique and creative too.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

More Retail and Restuarants News

Some random tidbits and rumors I've picked up on various websites in case people have not seen them.

Lot of good stuff here. I could really go for a new Spanish restaurant though and a few new bakeries.


From "Appetizers with Mike Dunne"
Paragary in September is to open Cosmo's, a deli-inspired restaurant in the Cosmopolitan Building, formerly Woolworth's, at 10th and K in downtown Sacramento. The concept was inspired by the restaurant's proximity to another tenant in the building, Cosmopolitan Cabaret, a 208-seat venue run by California Musical Theatre, which in September is to launch a series of musical comedies in the space. Paragary's concept for Cosmo's is being inspired largely by theater-district delis in New York, but will be more than a sandwich shop, he notes. Paragary's executive chef, Kurt Spataro, is starting to research and assemble the restaurant's menu, including a formula for the establishment's own housemade pastrami. "We hope to be a real presence in the middle of K Street," says Paragary.

- Tuli Bistro, under construction for nearly a year at 21st and S, is to open for breakfast, lunch and dinner this coming Tuesday, Dec. 11

- Ju Hachi, Taka and Susan Watanabe's Japanese restaurant at 18th and S in midtown Sacramento, under construction for a year, now is expected to be ready for sushi enthusiasts in January.

-Brush up on your Portuguese. Come next summer, a churrascaria is to move into a former fitness center at 14th and H in downtown Sacramento. Basically, a churrascaria -- pronounced shoo-ras-ka-ria -- is a Brazilian steakhouse inspired by Portuguese methods of barbecueing. Meats on skewers customarily are cooked over charcoal or gas, then carved tableside directly onto plates. Service is "rodizio" style, or all you can eat for one fixed price.

From Skyscraperpage.com via "TowerDistrict" "Innov8"
and "Ozone"

-ICON is moving from the DTP mall and will join Aqua restaurant (of San Francisco) in the L Street Lofts.

-The Real Pie Co. is moving from F Street and a upscale/urban furniture store will join the new chocolatier that is opening soon in 1801 L.

*If you have not been here, you need to go. The pies are amazing.*

- Cheese and Champagne Bar in a MARRS project at 20th and K along with a newsstand that is opening the next door down soon.

-Patrick Mulvaney has purchased the auto repair shop on the corner of 19th/L and will do open a banquet hall for his catering business as well as creating a prix fix sit down menu.

--Le Petit Paris will be expanding as soon as the sales office for the L Lofts moves into their building (Spring) and they will be offering coffee and small french treats.

-Delite -a gelato and panini shop will be opening in late spring in the old Sakurabana space.

-Still very much a rumor: The building across from 19th/Capitol Building -home of California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is going to be sold and converted to mix-use office/retail.

- Upper Playground out of SF at 25th and J:

World Wide Domination Continues
It continues... Upper Playground's quest for world wide domination is
sweeping faster than the invasion of Iraq. With five stores under its belt
already, U.P. is about to make it six, by conquering the city of Sacramento.
This makes the roster, San Francisco, Berkeley, Portland, London - England
and Taichung - Taiwan; enough to make even Ivan The Terrible proud.
To coincide with the Grand Opening, there will be a special exhibit featuring
the artworks of Sam Flores, Saber, Retna, Estevan Oriol, Date Farmers, N8
Van Dyke, David Choe, Mister Cartoon, Alex Pardee, Jeremy Fish, Vitche,
Mike Giant, San, Doze Green, and Herbert Baglione.

The Upper Playground Sacramento Store Grand Opening Reception will be
held Saturday, December 15, 2007 from 7:00 p.m–10:00 p.m.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

New Renderings for Downtown Plaza Makeover

Here are the latest set of renderings for the makeover Westfield is planning for Downtown Plaza.

You can find a detailed report and renderings from the Design Review meeting:
Westfield Downtown Plaza Remodel

It seem like renovations would definitely open up the J and L Street, and well as 4th and 7th. That has been one of my biggest complaints about the current look, its a bunker.

I do like the theater at J and 4th. I would have preferred 7th and K like was planned what seems like years and years ago. Theaters draw lots of people, esp mainstream theaters.

The grocery store is also much needed if more housing is going to be built in the area down the road. I still don't know how wise it is to use a lot of redevelopment money here right now. I still thing the general economy in that area should be the focus, when that improves it makes DTP and other retail project that much more likely to succeed.

Also, considering Target is going to redo the Broadway Target...why would they want a brand new on just a mile or so away?

City considers eminent domain for K Street

Late get this up, but IMO, They should have done this last year when Mo started his latest crap. Continuing to negotiate with him will yield the same results as the past 10 years. The games he's playing need to stop now.

Hopefully this means they will just buy him out instead of the swap. By buying the property, you lessen Mohanna's grip on DT that much more.

City considers eminent domain for K Street

With no development agreement in sight, landowner vows to fight attempt
By Terri Hardy - thardy@sacbee.com

As the future of struggling K Street hangs in the balance, Sacramento city leaders said Monday they are moving to wrest control of key blighted properties from landowner Moe Mohanna and his team.

Following years of talks on development plans, nasty court battles and no agreement in recent negotiations with Mohanna to jumpstart revitalization, the City Council will vote Dec. 11 on using eminent domain, Assistant City Manager John Dangberg said.

At the same time, Dangberg said the city would continue working for a settlement to avoid taking the property.

"We believe it's necessary to move forward on all fronts," Dangberg said. "K Street is too important."

The Mohanna team will fight the eminent domain attempt, said Myron Moskovitz, the partnership's attorney. Moskovitz said the group was stunned by the city's tactics because it believed a deal was near.

"Wham, out of the blue, the city pulls this," Moskovitz said. "I'm sure the city is expecting that (Mohanna) will roll over, but that's not going to happen. They're not going to condemn that property."

Even if a compromise could be crafted, Mohanna's team has no developer on board. John Saca pulled out of the partnership in late 2006, and Mohanna is in discussions to bring a builder and developing consultant on board, Moskovitz said.

At the heart of the battle between the city and Mohanna is a complex land exchange focusing on properties on and near the 700 and 800 blocks of K Street.

Under the original plan, Mohanna's team would develop the 800 block of K Street with condos and retail.

Another development group, led by Joe Zeiden, owner of the Z Gallerie furniture retail chain, would revamp historic buildings on the 700 block and bring in retailers.

The city already has spent $24 million acquiring some parcels necessary to the swap and relocating tenants.

In recent negotiations, Mohanna said he wanted to develop the 700 block, but that request was rejected, Moskovitz said. Then, he said, Mohanna put together a plan with retail, parking, potential residential and a grocery store, but the city said it wanted a scaled-back proposal.

"Moe puts together this beautiful, beautiful plan, and the city says no, they want something small with four or five stories, a minor project," Moskovitz said. "Moe then says he wants the potential for a future high-rise and (City Manager Ray) Kerridge said we'd meet to discuss engineering details."

Since September, Mohanna and his lawyer have had several meetings with top city officials, including Kerridge, Mayor Heather Fargo and City Attorney Eileen Teichert.

"In my opinion, the time has come for both parties to reach agreement during the next two weeks or ask the City Council at the Dec. 11 hearing to start the legal process to acquire the properties," Kerridge said in a news release.

Business leader John Lambeth, a minority partner in Mohanna's partnership, said in an e-mail he has not been involved in the negotiations, and he's disappointed progress has not been made.

"I will continue to make sure that my minority ownership will not be an impediment to the much-needed redevelopment of K Street," he wrote.

Talks between the city and Mohanna about revitalizing his properties began in 2001, said Leslie Fritzsche, the city's downtown redevelopment manager.

After threats of eminent domain were used, Mohanna put together a development team, and the council decided on using both Mohanna and Zeiden to transform K Street.

Last year, Mohanna and Zeiden agreed to the land swap. However, the deal unraveled last November after a fire damaged buildings on the 800 block. The buildings were later demolished.

Mohanna and his team declined to move forward, arguing that the property value was lowered and the exchange would not be fair.

In February, the city sued Mohanna and his team, asking a judge to compel them to complete the land swap. In August, a judge ruled the city wasn't likely to prevail in the lawsuit because the properties Mohanna was to receive had undergone a "material adverse change."

The city in August said it would pay Mohanna's partnership $11.6 million for his properties, but that offer was rejected, Fritzsche said.

The overarching lawsuit continues.

On Monday, the city amended its complaint against Mohanna's partnership, asking a judge to order them either to move forward or officially terminate the agreement.

"We've been in limbo," Dangberg said.

In the meantime, Zeiden's plans are on hold. Because he does not control the 700 block, Zeiden had to cancel preliminary commitments he'd captured from retail tenants.

If the council moves forward with eminent domain, it would add yet another legal layer to the city's dealings with Mohanna.

The eminent domain request would go before a judge for approval, a step that could take six to eight months, Dangberg said. If the judge approves the request, development could proceed while a jury deliberated on the amount to pay the landowners.

Negotiations could continue this week. But Moskovitz vowed the partnership will file additional lawsuits against the city, saying the threatened condemnation means Mohanna will be unable to secure long-term tenants for his properties.

Mohanna already has sued the city to recover damages, including the loss of thousands of dollars in rent from tenants the city evicted.

And Mohanna is suing Zeiden, claiming the developer was negligent in his oversight of the buildings, leading to the fire.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Living Green at 9onF

There are many cool infill projects going up in the grid and this is one of them. Not long ago I got to go on a tour of the 9onF townhouse project located on the 1400 block of F Street and walked away impressed. 9onF has nine eco-friendly homes squeezed onto what had once been vacant lot for decades. From the street there are two Victorian and contemporary styled homes and then behind them are seven more townhouses that fit snug into the court yard and alley.

In these times where going green is a BIG plus, this new community fits the bill. All the units are certified LEED-H from silver to gold. The project even has a geothermal heating and cooling water system which is the ability to heat and cool your home with the earth's groundwater. There are also a number of other green features in this project like non-toxic products, eco-friendly resources and many other energy saving features.

The location is also great, 9onF is only a few blocks from lots of restaurants on the 16th Street and J Street corridors. With so many other big projects getting the spot light in the midtown area, I thought this project was unique in it's green ways and also needed to be featured. I hope to see more eco-friendly green projects like this. http://www.9onf.com/green.php