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Marshall Park residents riled over festivals

Some Midtown residents are a little pissed to hear last-minute news that another big festival is coming on the heels of a Cinco de Mayo event that didn’t go as well as hoped – and that more are coming.

At a Neighborhood Advisory Group meeting Monday night, Marshall Park residents and others living nearby expressed frustration they were kept out of the loop on “Midfest 2009,” an event scheduled to be held at Marshall Park on Saturday, May 30, and Sunday, May 31.

They were notified Saturday by a Midtown Business Association (MBA) team going door-to-door announcing that the event will be happening just a few weeks after neighboring businesses held the first big Cinco de Mayo festival in the 2700 block of J Street. The notification was accompanied by an unofficial survey asking residents whether they approved of the event.

Now they’re also hearing about plans to continue these events once a month in Marshall Park.

“The main thing is this was sprung on people suddenly,” said Margaret Buss, a Boulevard Park Neighborhood Association board member. “This just came up. That is why everybody was up in arms about it. No one had heard anything about it.”

The City Council needs to update the approval process for special events permit requests and make sure the process is consistent for all events, said Sacramento City Councilmember Steve Cohn, who represents the Third District.

“We haven’t had a whole lot of requests until recently," he said. "Now it’s really taken off."

The MBA, one of Midfest’s organizers, is working with the city to modify special events requirements so neighbors are notified well in advance even for smaller-scale events like this, said Aja Uranga-Foster, an MBA staff member.

Midfest will feature a beer garden run by Paragary Restaurant Group, which owns adjacent Centro Cocina Mexicana restaurant and bar; live music; and sport demos by the Sacred City Derby Girls and Midtown skateboarders. The event is being touted as a fundraiser collecting money for a park fountain and several other organizations.

Residents have been told that several business-sponsored events have contributed money to the fountain fund. But the city says there is no money in the fund yet, said John Paul Olafson, who lives on 28th Street across from Marshall Park in the house closest to Centro.

“Our neighborhood has been promised a lot of things that have never happened,” said Olafson, who’s concerned about the plan to shut down his street for Midfest’s sports demonstrations. He’s worried that the 600 to 700 people who often show up for Derby Girls events will take over his yard and block access to the driveway.

Several older residents said the music is more than an annoyance; they’re worried their ears are being physically damaged by the loud music. Some have researched the issue online or talked with audiologists covered in their healthcare plans. They questioned why city ordinances over such things as noise aren’t being enforced in this area.

The first big Cinco de Mayo festival was not as bad as it could have been, residents said, but it still caused many of the same problems they’ve fought for years: a dirty neighborhood, parking problems and too-loud music that rocked people’s walls and eardrums until late Tuesday night.

Centro and other bars and restaurants operating in the 2700 block of J Street hosted the block-long event. One block of 28th Street was shut down for an outdoor music stage. Residents who didn’t want to party on a Tuesday night or who had to work the next day couldn’t escape the noise even six blocks away.

“The businesses have clearly won and the residents have clearly lost,” said Suzy Tyler, who lives next to Olafson. Her apartment building was the closest residence to the Cinco de Mayo music stage. “For whom are we making this city livable? ‘Cause it’s not working for me.”

Signs said parking was restricted after 6 p.m. on nearby streets to residents with proper permits. That seemed to cut down on crowded parking and related problems, but violaters weren’t towed, said Tyler and other residents. They question why provisions made to help buffer neighbors in these situations are apparently not getting enforced.

During the Cinco de Mayo festivities, Neighborhood Services Inc. provided security guards and picked up 90 pounds of trash from the event in the area between 26th, the J Street alley, 28th and H streets, said owner Charles Ortner.

His company was hired by bar and restaurant owners in the 2700 block. Randy Paragary, who owns Centro, and Danny Torza, who owns Harlow’s, “step up to the plate” and pay for the services, he said.

Two other businesses haven’t paid their share toward Neighborhood Services Inc. since January, leaving Ortner $30,000 in debt to the Sacramento Police Department, which provides supplemental police officers on weekend nights. Ortner didn’t disclose the names of those establishments.

Paragary offered to put residents on 27th and 28th streets, between I and J streets, up at downtown’s new Citizen Hotel on Cinco de Mayo. A Marshall School/New Era Park Neighborhood Association leader suggested using a cheaper hotel, said an association leader. Ultimately, the Vagabond Inn was offered just a few blocks from the event.

Organizers for the Sunday portion of Midfest – who also carried out some of the Midtown surveys – said most of the people they spoke with seemed to be OK with the event. They didn’t say how many of those lived in the three residential blocks fronting Marshall Park.

“However, they didn’t seem to be OKwith the Cinco de Mayo party,” said Shiree Cano, executive director for events for the T & M Organization for the Arts, one of the nonprofits to benefit from funds raised at Midfest. Surveyed residents complained about broken glass, public drunkenness, people vomiting and more.

“We are a family festival," she said. "We are closing at 8, not 4 in the a.m. I want to assure everyone we’ll clean up everything."

Cohn is planning to meet with Marshall School/New Era Park Neighborhood Association members to discuss the Cinco de Mayo event. The way businesses run these events will have a big impact on their requests for future special event permits, he said.

“Clearly, there is a lot of discontent from a lot of people," he said. "Not just from Cinco de Mayo, but other events."

 

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