A Fond Farwell
Reflections on 16 years in office
By Susan Peters
This is my last column written as your representative on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, so allow me to express my appreciation for the privilege and honor of representing you and the communities of Arden-Arcade and Carmichael. I’d like to share some final observations.
This is the first time since 1973 that the third district supervisor will not be a woman. Sandy Smoley started the trend, followed by Muriel Johnson and then me when I joined the board in 2005. While gender did not influence my role as supervisor, my business background did—leading me to push for a streamlined approach to getting things done.
I’m proud of the updates to the zoning code made during my tenure that allow for quicker review of development projects. The Department of Transportation also realized the need to break up large-scale projects into manageable segments to successfully secure grant funding, since the old way of submitting multi-million-dollar projects was no longer viable.
Upgrades to Fair Oaks Boulevard illustrate SACDOT’s success with dividing the effort into three phases, which enabled us to obtain necessary funding. The final phase is expected to be finished later this year. Phase 1 of the Arden Way Complete Streets Project will follow.
Throughout my four terms, I wanted to ensure our suburban neighborhoods received the attention and recognition they deserve. Because the suburbs are lumped into an “un-city” category, I worked with our local board of realtors to install the names of recognized neighborhoods and communities on street signs. Arden Park, Arden Oaks, Carmichael Colony, Carmichael Creek, Del Paso Manor, Sierra Oaks, Sierra Oaks Vista and many others are now recognized on street signs in their respected areas.
I also established design guidelines for commercial, as well as multi-family, development. Before that, many developers (national chains in particular) had one standard for suburban locations and a more stylish one for urban sites. Now projects go through a Design Review Advisory Committee.
When I joined the board, many residents complained about transparency for development projects. Now all entitlement project locations are posted with a sign (similar to a real estate sign) bearing the county seal with a notice directing interested parties to a website for project information, including the application, drawings, assigned planner and hearing body. This allows the public to access available information and understand the process. Residents also can now get email notices regarding meeting agendas for the Community Planning Advisory Councils, County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, to name a few.
The Fulton Avenue Association, a local Property and Business Improvement District, already existed when I took office. PBID property owners and businesses raise funds through a self-imposed assessment and decide how to spend those funds on improvements. Over the years, improvements have included the distinctive arch at Auburn Boulevard, as well as impressive landscaped medians and undergrounded utility lines.
Based on its success, I encouraged other property owners to consider PBIDs, which resulted in the 80 Watt District and Carmichael Improvement District. The 80 Watt District has allocated resources for additional security and recently was awarded funding for improved lighting. CID has prioritized security and cleanup patrols.
I also worked with property and business owners along Arden Way to create a PBID covering the stretch between Ethan Way to Watt Avenue. While there is interest, the process is still a work in progress. Hopefully, my successor will be able to make it a reality.
I always have been fascinated by infrastructure (both my father and late husband were engineers). That probably explains why I met monthly with the county’s transportation director to review road projects. My goal was to ensure projects proceeded and had the necessary funding.
I’m proud to have added sidewalks along several major roadways, including Hurley Way, Edison Avenue and Watt Avenue, so pedestrians, especially schoolchildren, have safe places to walk. Since 2005, residents have used the consensus-building process employed by the Neighborhood Traffic Management Program to obtain speed-reduction devices.
While getting more streets paved has been challenging, SACDOT has conducted an intensive inventory of road conditions that is used as funding becomes available. Unfortunately, the backlog on road maintenance amounts to $789 million and the state reports revenue estimates from the gas tax are down due to people driving less because of COVID-19. As a result, SACDOT has had to delay some paving projects. Hopefully, the economy will improve and generate more funding for transportation projects, including paving, sidewalks and bike lanes.
The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department functions as the local police for the unincorporated area. That’s why I have always supported full funding for the department. Defunding the sheriff’s budget means putting public safety at risk. Sheriff’s deputies do more than make arrests and jail people. Our Sheriff’s Department has a Homeless Outreach Team, Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement Team and Youth Services Division in which deputies serve as mentors and role models to youth.
In addition, the county has procedures to address citizen complaints via independent and objective review by a new inspector general. And this year’s budget includes funding for body cameras for deputies.
The American River Parkway has always merited my support. Much of this unique natural resource is located in the third district. Over the years, the number of park rangers has increased to improve parkway safety. A 55-member volunteer Bike Patrol now watches over the bike trails. Patrol members are trained in first aid, CPR and bicycle repair.
In 2006, the parkway became a problem on July 4 due to alcohol consumption, fights, public nudity, profanity and tons of litter. I supported implementing an alcohol ban between Hazel and Watt avenues, which is now also enforced on Labor Day and Memorial Day, making the parkway more family friendly during holidays.
During my tenure, positive changes have also occurred involving the Effie Yeaw Nature Center and Ancil Hoffman Park. When the great recession forced massive budget cuts, it looked like the nature center would get axed. But the nonprofit American River Natural History Association assumed operation of the nature center as part of a public-private partnership with Sacramento County Regional Parks. Today, the center continues to provide many outstanding nature programs to schoolchildren.
At Ancil Hoffman Park, improved amenities over the years include the addition of speed bumps to slow drivers on Tarshes Drive, a suggestion by many walkers. More recently, the old chain-linked fence that bordered the golf course was finally replaced, improving the park’s appearance.
With 16 years of memories, there are too many projects to recount in this column. I think—and hope—I was able to make a positive impact while in office. Much of what was accomplished has to be attributed to the assistance I received from my able staff. Terri Conde-Ortiz probably greeted you when you called. Vanessa McCarthy-Olmstead served as my deputy chief of staff and was my liaison to many of the area’s business organizations and PBIDs. Howard Schmidt was my chief of staff who provided good counsel and kept me organized from my first day in office and continued to do so until the end. Rich Desmond will take over Jan. 4 as your new supervisor and I wish him the best.
Susan Peters represented District 3 on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors from January 2005 through 2020.