Cesar Chavez Park occupies a square, two-acre block in downtown Sacramento. Bounded by 9th and 10th Streets and I and J Streets, the park counts City Hall, such high-rise office structures as the US Bank and CAL EPA buildings, restaurants, and a city parking garage among its neighbors. Although the park is 100 years old, it floundered until the early 1980’s, when Sacramento began its downtown revitalization efforts and forged a plan to redesign and revitalize the park (an earlier 1960’s redesign was a failure). The vision for the park drew on its historic design–diagonal entrances, a central fountain, and a circular walk ringed with trees. Today, the park is a successful and flexible space, with a low permanent stage, a refurbished fountain, a sculpture of Cesar Chavez, a café with indoor and outdoor seating, restrooms, and portable tables and chairs. The park is part of the 65-block BID, the Sacramento Downtown Partnership.
Owned by: City of Sacramento
Managed by: The City of Sacramento leases the park to the Sacramento Downtown Partnership, which then provides permits for events. The members of the Partnership include the city, the state, the county, and approximately 200 property owners who are members of the Property and Business Improvement District (PBID). The City Council and Mayor’s office make the final decisions about design, planning, and bidding for the park. Other stakeholders include the California EPA (diagonally opposite the park at 10th and I), the Farmers Market, the Cesar Chavez Committee, the Public Library, and the Friends group (responsible for the art project in the park). A Special Events Committee comprising representatives from the Fire Department, the Police Department, and other city departments must approve proposals for large events. The Partnership also works closely with the City’s Parks and Events Departments. Among the staff assigned to the park are one Community Service Guide and one person in charge of permitting.
Maintenance: The City Parks Department maintains the lawn and landscape. The park’s intensive programming annually destroys the lawn, and so the parks department continually works to restore it.
Security and Hospitality: The Community Service Guides corps, a program of the Partnership, provide information for visitors and act as overseers for the park. Guides have approximately a six-block beat; they spend most of their time in the park, where they act as ambassadors and become familiar with the regular visitors. They report maintenance and safety problems to the police as needed, and try to educate visitors about the park’s systems. There are two police officers on bikes that help patrol the park, as well as the California Highway Patrol officers, who are responsible for the neighboring state buildings. In addition, security officers for the courthouses and the Sheriff’s Department often take their lunch in the park, which increases the sense of a “security presence.”
Event hosts submit their applications to the Downtown Partnership, which secures approvals from the City of Sacramento Events Committee, and then distributes permits to event organizers. There is a Farmers’ Market with entertainment every Wednesday for six months of the year; a weekly concert series in the summer; and an annual “Clean Air Day” hosted by the State of California; there is also a “Battle of the Bands,” a Jazz Festival, and a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating.
Marketing and promotion: The Downtown Partnership works with local newspapers and the City of Sacramento Utility Billing System to distribute fliers and advertisements. The Partnership has a limited advertising budget, with which they put up banners in the park and distribute fliers through their various downtown information carts.
The Partnership had a difficult time identifying the appropriate caretakers for various services, such as wiping down tables or cabling together the portable tables and chairs. These difficulties were resolved by contracting with a maintenance service, paid for with funds from park-use permit fees. Managing vendors is also a challenge in the park.
The Partnership is funded through assessments of the PBID members. The revenue generated from park-permit event fees is used to support park maintenance.
Capital investment: $1 million from bond financing, as well as $150,000 from the Downtown Department of the City, is earmarked for improvements in the park, such as expanding the café and adding more furniture.
Cesar Chavez Park shows how the right design and good management can lead to the success of a public space.
Sacramento Downtown Partnership
Director of Community Services
Director of Special Events
Web Site: http://www.downtownsac.org
City of Sacramento
Web Site: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/parks/parkspages/CesarChavez.html