Image Above: Southwest Fresno, image from Redfin.com.
City of Fresno Planning and Zoning Commission August 17, 2022 Meeting Changes to West North Avenue between South Elm Avenue and South Marks Avenue Official Plan Lines
August 19, 2022
by Emily Brandt
Watch the Meeting here: https://cmac.tv/show/fresno-planning-commission-meeting-8-17-2022/
This is series ongoing covering the City of Fresno implementation of the Complete Streets Resolution, 2019-205
Why is there such vigorous rejection of the Planning Department’s “Complete Streets Resolution, 2019-205?” These and other questions are explored in this detailed investigation of what is really happening both in public and behind the scenes in emails, phone calls, private meetings with City staff from various departments. No other media is covering this story with as closely so far as what you will read in the Fresno Free Press over the following weeks. Please keep reading!
This screenshot of text from the Meeting Agenda for the Planning Commission from August 17, 2022 is not the beginning of a systematic set of moves to displace residents and businesses in part of the 93706 zip code located in Southwest Fresno since the item as proposed here, first came on the agenda on August 3, 2022. The City of Fresno plans to widen roads beginning with West North Avenue between South Elm and South Marks Avenue.
You can open the link below to see this screenshot live. The purpose of attending this meeting was to oppose this proposal because widening the streets is the first step in a slow process of gentrification and both indirect and direct displacement. (https://fresno.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5759304&GUID=FC24051A-FDCA-467A-9099-DEC3FFEF93BF)
H.E.A.T. (Hope & Effort Appropriately Thriving, since 2004) attended the Planning Commission meeting on August 17, 2022 and successfully presented testimony that led to the failure to adopt the plan, but it was only postponed for reconsideration on Sept. 7, 2022. [On September 7, 2022, the Planning Commission voted to approve the street widening plan but not until after Commission Chair Peter Vang first made a motion to reject it. His motion to reject the plan did not get approval. When a motion to approve the plan was made, that motion was approved. Only Commissoner Vang and Commissioner David Criner opposed it. It now goes to the Fresno City Council to approve or deny the plan. It is on the agenda for the city council meeting on Thursday, September 29, 2022.]
On August 17, Planning Commissioners stated that they were concerned about the lack of communication with residents and Commissioner Kathy Bray asked why there was such apparent division among members of the community since they had been told by the lead presenter, Scott Tyler, that the community favored bike lanes and sidewalks. HEAT, however, clearly showed that there was great opposition. Why didn’t the City of Fresno and the Planning Commission know this? Opponents like HEAT are routinely dismissed, ignored and given ambiguous or changing answers to their questions and requests for information.
The comments made by residents showed that this road-widening will be displacing residents who did not receive the notification that Scott Tyler of the Public Works Department claims to have sent to 400 people in the area. Two people were in HEAT’s group who live on West North Avenue in the section under consideration; neither one was notified of this plan. The City also presented inaccurate information on the street (see the image below) which is referred to in the title as “North Temperance Alignment” saying that it was a 4-lane road being reduced to a 2-lane road. In actuality, the reference to 4-lane is to what was planned in the General Plan 2020-2025 and the Southwest Fresno Specific Plan (SWFSP) and not to the number of lanes in West North Avenue which is 2 lanes. You can see this on p. 82-84 in the online version of the SWFSP (https://www.fresno.gov/darm/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2016/10/SouthwestFresnoBookPublicReviewDraft051017red.pdf) The street will not be changed to what one pictures as a 2-lane road, but rather 2 lanes with turn-lanes from the center of the street enabling drivers to turn north or south off West North Avenue. In addition, there will be sidewalks, a 2-way central turn lane and other features, as can be seen at the top of page 4 below.
It is not a simple 2 lane road. This is why residents are alarmed at these plans and worry if this will take away substantial amounts of their front yards. The Planning Department Director, Jennifer Clark and Public Works Manager, Scott Tyler denied that any such dangers could occur. HEAT will be testing their statements by measuring the roads, shoulders, etc and by interviewing residents themselves.
Members of HEAT–a grassroots group of residents of West Fresno who have been working on housing, schools, and other issues in West Fresno since 2004–tried as early as 2018 to get access to the road-widening plans so that residents, especially aging property owners, could make plans that would grant them stability in their aging years, but members of the Planning Department and Public Works Department repeatedly denied that there would road-widening as it is described in the Southwest Fresno Specific Plan, much of which became the projects associated with the Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) $69 million funding of the Transform Fresno Projects. (transformfresno.com)
The most important thing disclosed by the Public Works Department on Wednesday, August 17, 2022 at the Planning Commission meeting was that these road-widening plans have been in place in 2010, re-visited in 2014 in very limited community meetings of which none of the residents of the area attending this meeting was notified. Who was/were the “resident/s” included in these community meetings called upon to act as the “voice of the community” giving legal cover to whatever the City of Fresno and the Planning and Zoning Commission wants to do.
All the parallel streets to W. North including Annadale, Jensen, Church and California will be subject to variations of this type of road-widening which you can see listed with qualifications enabling them to adjust their plans as they like or as needed on the pages listed above. To see the chart explaining their road-widening plan with measurements and dimensions, see p. 78.
HEAT will be testing this with tape measures since the numbers given by Scott Tyler, Capital Projects Manaager in the Public Works Department Engineering Division, did not add up.
To see the maps and narrative description of transit routes (79) and truck routes (85).
A follow-up article will be published soon.
On p 81, you can see the map of Planned Number of Roadway Lanes, but be sure to read all the narrative descriptions and the annotations (small print under the chart on p. 83) because their statements contradict themselves numerous times.
When it comes to the subject of bicycle trails, things become very problematic. The expectation that residents, homeowners and property-owners, business-owners would be advocating for greater bicycle access is a subject of great confusion. The City of Fresno has tapped into some strong non-profit and private groups that advocate and agitate for increased bicycle path/trail access. The City of Fresno has never, to my knowledge commissioned an independent study of the practicality and desirability of increasing bike paths/trails in 93706 or anywhere else in Fresno. Members of the Public Works Department who spoke with HEAT and members of the public after the meeting outside the City Council Chambers unequivocally stated as they did inside the Chambers during the meeting that the residents of 93706 use bicycles and want greater access to bike paths on city streets and bike paths for recreational biking.
Residents present disputed these statements loudly during the meeting (which should be very evident in the CMAC recording). Most property-owners have young children who cannot be transported on bicycles safely any distance especially not to destinations like grocery stores or other retail establishments because bicycles cannot transport loads of goods and children. The other large population demographic is elderly; it is not possible or safe for many elderly people to travel by bicycle, nor is it in any way practical. Show the public the evidence that proves residents want bike lanes/trails.
Furthermore, if you study the plans for said bike lanes/trails (above), they do not lead anywhere; they do not lead to stores, places of work or of recreation. Most people who use bicycles are homeless and there is a large concentration of homeless in Southwest Fresno because it is full of acreage that looks semi-industrial and abandoned. It belongs to someone, but it has likely not been cared for as it was decades ago because the City of Fresno considers it ready for infill.
93706 has record levels of pm 2.5 air pollution that enters the blood stream and causes deadly damage to vital organs including the human brain and the unborn fetus. The accident rate from bicycle crashes is one of the highest in the US because it is impossible to devise safe plans in cities such as Fresno where there was no accommodation for them when the streets were laid out. There’s no flexibility in the present system of streets. It will always be deadly.