County planning director claims massive sprawl development is not sprawl

What do you call 30,000 homes being developed outside a city boundary on farmland?

This is what Norm Allinder, Madera County planning director thinks, according to a new article from the Fresno Bee:

“This doesn’t perpetuate the legacy
of sprawl,” he said. “Gunner Ranch is contiguous; it’s a logical
expansion for urban development.”

The yellow star is the area he is talking about, in relation to the clearly identifiable City of Fresno.

And this is what they’re planning there:

Principal owner Tim Jones’ vision for his nearly 6,600-home
development a few miles north of Woodward Park is a subdivision with six
separate themed districts. Riverstone will compete for home buyers with
southeast Fresno, northwest Fresno, southeast Clovis and a new
community planned south and east of Clovis North High School.

Rio Mesa Area Plan will result in more than 30,000 homes when built out
over 30 years. About 18,000 homes have county approval. The contiguous
communities could incorporate to create a new Madera County city that
could dwarf the city of Madera and have a population greater than Madera
County’s current population of 150,000.

At Riverstone, McCaffrey Homes will build homes on 5,500-square-foot
lots and 7,700-square-foot lots. Jones said a contract for a second
builder for the first phase has not been finalized.

6,600 homes, starting off with 5,500 square foot lots, just off the highway, and surrounded with nothing but farmland.

Sprawl? Of course not, the planning director says so!

“We want to create a place where you live, work and play,” he said, “a place where you don’t have to rely on your automobile.”

Of course! Just look at all the places one can go without an automobile!

Now, hold on a second. Sure, one will need a car to access jobs, schools, supermarkets, restaurants, bars, and anything else you’d want, but maybe there’s something we’re missing here?

The new Madera County developments will be cutting edge, meeting and
exceeding the best projects in Fresno County, including the Clovis
master-planned communities of Harlan Ranch and Loma Vista, Allinder

Oooooh! Cutting edge!

Let’s take a look at the site plan!

Single family homes, set inside winding, dead-end streets, all leading to larger arterials which in turn direct one to a state highway.

The future has truly arrived in Madera County. 



Did you just get the feeling that you’ve read this before? I sure did when writing it.

We must be thinking of a post I put together almost exactly a year ago:

Beautiful countryside to make way for massive 5,000 home sprawl project

Am I repeating myself and rehashing old news?

Nope. That’s a completely separate project. That’s the Tesoro Viejo development, which is also underway.

Here’s a map showing their relationship:

Sigh. Continuing on then.


Considering these new development are surrounded by zero infrastructure, and aside from a gas station, all the shops, jobs, schools and restaurants are in Fresno, one would think Fresno County would be concerned. Every single resident moving in here will shortly be clogging the CA-41 off-ramps onto Friant and Herndon for all their daily needs.

Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea said that Fresno and Fresno County benefited from the housing boom for
much of the past 50 to 60 years. And, in the short term, Fresno County
will benefit from new homes just over the border, he said.

Residents in the new Madera County subdivisions will spend money in
Fresno, and the city doesn’t have the burden of paying for
infrastructure and other needs caused by the population of the new

“Many of those folks will drive into Fresno County for jobs and shopping, and we will probably benefit,” he said. 

There is literally one, and only one road from these developments to anything and everything, and that’s CA-41. Every new resident in this development means a car on CA-41 trying to get off at one of these off-ramps to reach essential services like a neighborhood supermarket.

Surely that means Fresno won’t incur costs!

Aside from added congestion, air pollution, noise, “mandatory” road widening, and “upgraded” traffic signals of course. 

Norm Allinder fights back at these allegations of new vehicle miles traveled and congestion.

Eventually, vehicle miles traveled will drop substantially because
many residents will work at Children’s Hospital and the Riverpark office
complexes down the road. Riverstone also will contain its own business
district and other developments will have zoning for commercial and
office space.

Yes, because that’s how sprawl works. LA doesn’t have traffic because everybody works immediately adjacent to their home!

In Norm’s mind, people ALWAYS live adjacent to where they work. Housing development near hospital? Only doctors will live there! Downtown job? Live downtown! Work a part-time job at 7-11? You’ll live a block away!

In their magic little world, this is what commuting patterns look like, green being the housing areas, red being commercial:

In reality, people commute like this:

That’s how you get congestion. That’s how you find yourself in a situation like Los Angeles or Houston where it’s not uncommon to run into a traffic jam at 11pm.

In Norm’s world, every house has one worker, who works 40 years at the same job, meaning he can locate within an easy, predictable, commute.

Norm lives in some idealistic 1950’s world.

In the real world, one house can have 4 workers all going to vastly different jobs, in vastly different places. Further, the new gas station with a minimum wage clerk position is not going to be staffed by the person who moves into the brand new 7,000 square foot lot next door. That resident will probably work an established job a 30 minute drive away. And because the gas station isn’t near any transit, the new clerk will also be driving 30 minutes from their home in South Fresno to make $10 an hour.

It’s 2016, why is this still happening?

6 Replies to “County planning director claims massive sprawl development is not sprawl”

  1. As somebody that grew up in Fresno and now have lived in San Jose for 35 years, I've seen what happens when a city or metropolitan area keeps physically expanding. Physically expanding helps in the short term but it hurts in the long term because it costs more for City services than what is gotten in residential neighborhoods. In the Santa Clara Valley, cities like Santa Clara, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and Palo Alto have a lot more jobs than workers while San Jose has less.

    Since San Jose is building very few tract homes (those that are built are in-fill, most of the housing is now coming in as 4 to 7 stories outside downtown and 20 story buildings within downtown. The shorter ones may be revenue neutral while the 20 story buildings bring in more revenue than it cost the city to provide services for those residents.

    The developers in San Jose would love to build over the remaining farm land with tract homes but the city won't allow it. The developers also don't have the political power to make it happen.

    The thing that is happening now is that even in the poorer neighborhoods, new buildings are constantly being added whether it is apartment buildings or stores. San Jose has developed an Urban Villages plan for areas all over the city. This shows how areas can be developed. As an example near my house, strip retail centers around a major intersection can be replaced with the same amount of retail but with the addition of quite a bit of housing. All of the retail is currently one story with surface parking lots. The plan would have up to 7 story buildings along one street stepping down to 4 stores next to the single family home neighborhoods.

    1. I can only imagine how much a new tract home in san jose will cost. 3 story condos/town homes that aren't even detached, building up with no front or backyards brand new cost $600K+ I dare say they would cost close to 1 million for a tract home similar to what we see in the valley that go for $300K

      I always thought the reason why they no longer build detached single family homes is to milk the profit and build more homes in the form of attached condos/townhomes.

      i find it funny that a "poor neighborhood" in San Jose, the old fixer upper homes cost $400-500K. I hate when people I know from San Jose say they live in the ghetto or bad areas, but I see pricing of homes in their area as I just described. I wouldn't be able to even afford to live int he "poor neighborhood" coming from a "nice neighborhood" here in Fresno.

  2. And there is Johns Creek, GA, ranked 3rd in 'best cities to live in' which was built with same dead worms and cul-de-sacs pattern
    and now attempts to "Require new commercial development/redevelopment to provide inter-parcel and backside access to include pedestrian and bicycle connections, and encourage retrofit in existing developments" and "Provide pedestrian and bicycle only connections between adjacent neighborhoods" according to their Transportation Master Plan.

  3. Great article!

    I think you nailed it in regards to illustrating and describing–or more like questioning how this isn't sprawl when the people behind this project seem to be in denial of that.

    I think the problem is a lot of major builders are on board with it. A big central valley builder, Mccaffrey Homes, is clearly on board with this a long with that Tesoro Viejo community that is even further north of Riverstone. I'm not sure what other builders will be building in these communities. They obviously don't care–it's money in their pockets. They are building in the middle of no where.

    I'm all for expanding and developing, but I like to see them finish with areas that still have space to fill in the gaps if you will. It makes Fresno/Clovis area not look all patchy from an aerial view on the map. Makes it look more of a developed city.

    All for the money.

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