Fresno councilors trying to kill infill general plan again

Developers aching for more sprawl versus everybody else. Sound familiar? It should, because in December of 2014, I published this post: Will Fresno council kill infill general plan? with that exact sentence.

Five years later, here we are again.

As a reminder, the 2035 General Plan Update (enacted in late 2014) directed Fresno to focus on infill development instead of continuous sprawl. Local developers were furious, and pulled every trick they could to block it. Fortunately, the council at the time did listen to the people of Fresno, who throughout the public process strongly preferred curtailing sprawl.

Now a couple of members of the city council want to spend $3 million to start the whole process again and get a different result.

The Fresno Bee reported in November:

Fresno City Councilmember Luis Chavez is pushing a new plan to expand the city’s sphere of influence — an issue past councils have argued could lead to more urban sprawl. Chavez, who represents southeastern District 5, will be asking the City Council to re-open the discussion on how it regulates home building, saying the city’s General Plan is failing.

Chavez argues not allowing Fresno to grow in the southern parts of the city has driven developers away. He pointed to growth in cities like Sanger and Clovis, and to the growing community of more than 100,000 homes planned north of the San Joaquin River in Madera County. “We essentially created a number of bedroom communities and pushed that development outward,” Chavez said.

Fresno Bee

Chavez either doesn’t understand how long stuff takes to happen, or is lying.

Take, for example, the sprawl growth in Clovis. Most of it has happened in the eastern edge of town, called Loma Vista.

The Loma Vista Specific Plan area was one of three urban centers envisioned in the 1993 General Plan update. The recent agreement on the city’s sphere of influence has enabled our active planning of the area. The specific plan process began in May 2001, with the evaluation and selection of a consultant, and included an inter-agency technical advisory committee and a Plan Advisory Committee composed of property owners, Clovis residents, and area stakeholders. 


Planning for that started in 1993, was codified in 2001, and finalized in 2009. As of late 2019, it’s not even halfway done.

Sprawl in Clovis

What Fresno did in 2014 did not have anything to do with this development in Clovis.

It’s the same story in Madera. I wrote about the Tesoro Viejo plan in 2015, but according to ABC 30, ” Tesoro Viejo is part of the Rio Mesa area plan which was approved by Madera County supervisors in 1994.”

Odd again to blame a 2014 plan on something that happened in 1994.

In an excellent editorial just published by the Fresno Bee, they push back on some of the shady numbers being thrown around.

One question is why it would be necessary to expand to the sphere of influence, as there is ample land available within the city for development. According to city planning staff, 134,693 new housing units can be built within current limits. Expanding to the existing sphere would add 154,466 more units. Taken together, the total is 289,159 housing units.

Fresno Bee

This is correct. There are plenty of empty lots all over Fresno ready for development. And that’s before even looking at under-developer properties that could be upzoned.

The editorial also repeats the point that allowing sprawl is bad for the city budget.

It is easier for developers to build on vacant land than on open lots within existing neighborhoods. But sprawl growth is a major reason why Fresno faces the budget challenges it has today. Providing services outward only increases costs, and home development is not the best generator of tax revenue.

Changing the general plan only benefits the same three developers that have controlled Fresno politicians for years.

The item will be discussed and voted on tomorrow, Thursday December 5th at 11am. The vote would be to spend $3 million on a new general plan process. It will be pretty clear from the votes who represents Fresno, and who is in the developer’s pockets.

One Reply to “Fresno councilors trying to kill infill general plan again”

  1. The blame isn’t entirely on developers, it’s on city building and zoning code for new development. This is the result of government regulation, bad regulation. Things like setback requirements for the front, sides, and rear of the house that need to be met that result in wasted space and buildings set back from the street so as to encourage speeding. Parking minimums ensure that every house front is dominated by a two/three car garage no one actually uses for storing cars. Maximum lot usage or FAR, Floor-Area-Ratio, limits the footprint of a building on a parcel further restricting its size. Height requirements prevent building up. Land usage, or single family zoning, greatly restricts potential housing supply, hurts affordability, worsens cost efficiency of the neighborhood, and can encourage auto-dependency.

    Parking and road/lane width requirements result in residential streets that are big. Compare this 35 foot wide residential street” in Fresno… this 27 wide street in the Netherlands

    Both streets accommodate two way traffic and ample on street parking, but the second example discourages dangerous driving habits. More importantly, the second example in the Netherlands reduces cost burdens on the city. If you are a conservative and you support a balanced budget, you should be in favor of Dutch style streets. Every lane mile’s worth of asphalt costs the city on the order of $30,000 a year to upkeep. Ever wonder why it seems like Fresno is just always behind on road maintenance and never has enough money? This is part of the reason why. Too much physical road, it’s like overeating ice cream.

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