Category: Housing

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. Click to read more!

Fresno COG’s 2018 Regional Transportation Plan Available for Public Comment

The Fresno Council of Governments (COGs) is the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Fresno area. Basically, their job is to ensure planning is done on a regional basis, rather than a city-by-city basis. Or in their words:

The Fresno Council of Governments (Fresno COG) is a consensus builder, developing acceptable programs and solutions to issues that do not respect political boundaries. Fresno COG is a voluntary association of local governments, one of California’s 38 regional planning agencies, and one of 500+ nationwide. In 1967 elected officials of Fresno County and its incorporated cities informally created the agency, formalizing Fresno COG in 1969 through a Joint Powers Agreement. Fresno COG undertakes comprehensive regional planning with an emphasis on transportation, provides citizens an opportunity to be involved in the planning process, and supplies technical services to its members. Click to read more!

Bakersfield did demolish a neighborhood to build a highway

A few years ago, I made a post about how Bakersfield was planning to bulldoze a neighborhood to build yet another freeway. I am rarely in Bakersfield, so in those 5 years, I didn’t really follow the project, aside from knowing it was chugging along. (I actually did stop in Bakersfield in August for dinner, coming back from Six Flags, but didn’t explore). Usually, big infrastructure projects take years to happen. At the time, Bakersfield was looking at alternative routes. If it takes Fresno 10 years to build improved bus stops, Boston 30 years to extend a trolley route, and NYC 60 years to add a subway station, surely things in Bakersfield would move slowly. Demolishing an existing neighborhood is no small feat.

Well, Ryan Young recently took a visit and photographed the progress. The freeway is indeed under construction, and the neighborhood is gone. He reports:

Westpark is a neighborhood like any other in Central Bakersfield. It’s filled with single-story ranch homes from the 50’s and 60’s; its streets are wide, clean, and lined with orderly parked cars; its lawns are neatly divided by fully matured palm trees.

But Westpark is a neighborhood under siege.

Over the past several years, city bulldozers sliced a wide, sterile arc directly through the heart of the neighborhood; they razed at least 300 homes and 120 businesses. And now, where the humble homesteads of hundreds of families and retirees once stood, there is nothing–just woodchips and orphaned cross-streets as far as the eye can see.

So if Bakersfield is going to be build this freeway after all, then I hope we at least remember that we threw a community under that bulldozer. I hope we can say that, in the end, we did give a s—t. Click to read more!

New Google satellite imagery for Fresno! (Fall 2017)

Posting updates about Google Maps satellite imagery in the Fresno region used to be a frequent topic on this blog. Thanks to the lack of clouds for half the year, Fresno was lucky in that new images were posted about twice a year, compared to some more populated area that only got an update every other year – or even less frequently. Basically, to provide the images, a satellite has to take hundreds of pictures, and then they are all blended together automatically to reveal a seamless image without clouds in the way. Since Fresno has so many clear days, it’s much easier to get the shots.=&0=&(it takes them a couple of months to process and update – that’s normal). There was also an update taken on =&1=&, which I noticed around July, but never got around to posting about.=&2=&

Fresno Fulton Mall / Street September 2017 Construction Photo Tour

This is a comprehensive look at the Fulton Mall (future Fulton Street) in Fresno, 2 months before construction is scheduled to end. Fresno is spending around $20 million to eliminate a pedestrian mall and re-open it to vehicles and vehicular parking. The intention behind it is to bring economic vitality to the corridor.=&0=&

Fresno downtown and midtown photo update!

This will be my last Fresno construction update photo dump for awhile! Once again, I’ve gotten far behind and my photos are quickly becoming out of date. So rather than 2-3 posts, they’re all going in here!=&0=&=&1=&

Clovis Infill – A Photo Update

It feels a little odd talking about infill in Clovis. It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, as the city is known for its endless subdivisions. And yet in 2017, Old Town Clovis appears to have almost as much infill construction as Downtown Fresno going on.

I reported on two of these projects in July 2015, but I’ve added a few other ones here.

  • Centennial Plaza
  • La Quinta Inn
  • Rail-Trail Housing
  • New Library
  • Sierra Meadows Park
  • Clovis Community Hospital

Centennial Plaza

Let’s start with the big one: Centennial Plaza. This is the heart of Old Town on Pollasky, and I last took a look in May 2016 when the new plaza was finished. That update was focused on the street improvements, but now new buildings are rising up to frame the plaza.

Only 3 stories tall, the new building does make an impression in a downtown where a second story is a novelty.

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No basement here

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Close to the street

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Construction has also started on the building framing the other side of the plaza

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La Quinta Inn

A wee bit south, we find construction has finally started on La Quinta Inn. I reported on this one in May of 2015. Aside from building on a vacant lot, what makes this development interesting is that the hotel will be built over parking. This signals that demand for development in Old Town has increased to the point where large surface parking lots no longer make economic sense.

It’s a start.

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Rail-Trail Housing

In that same post from July of 2015, I talked about an approved plan to build new homes on an oddly shaped lot at Sierra and Clovis. What made the plan unique was that two of the homes would front the regional bicycle trail.

Construction has begun:

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The existing homes are very modest

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The alley will allow for rear driving access

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The existing homes are getting carports added

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Construction 

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 View from the trail

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New Library

The existing Clovis library is a disgrace. It’s about twenty years overdue for a replacement, and fortunately, one is coming soon.

Here we see the completed Old Town trail, looking towards the new library complex

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Nothing has started yet, but it is expected soon.

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The new complex will be behind this existing resting point

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As an aside, that little station has a trail map which is actually updated every year

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Looking north, the property is still on the right

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It will link to Clovis Avenue

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Here is the exterior of the existing library, which will be retained as another government building

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Odd?

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I stopped by on a day they were closed. Whoops. However, you can see how narrow the building is…

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Sierra Meadows Park

Moving to the more suburban areas, we have Sierra Meadows Park. This is quite possibly the slowest park project in California. It appears that every year they add one little feature. Over the past five years, they’ve added benches, some lighting, and bags for dog waste. 2017 is supposed to see the arrival of restrooms.

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This might be where the new restrooms are going

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Someone posted an overhead video on Youtube taken from a drone. It does an excellent job of showing that 90% of the park is still just empty space. The plan includes adding a lake, auditorium, playground etc. Maybe by 2030?

Clovis Community Hospital 

This hospital doesn’t stop growing. Admittedly, the one type of development I rarely follow is that related to hospital construction. While they’re open to the public, they’re not quite public spaces. They’re also very insular.

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However I stopped by to see if any work has been done on connecting the regional bicycle trail network. Green shows what exists, red what is proposed.

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The Clovis Trail maps show the proposal

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I did find some trail, which appears to have been built in the past two years. Not the connector though.

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Walking to 168 to see where the tunnel would go

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And I think that’s it for Clovis. The infill anyway. Like always, there are 500+ homes tract under construction at the city edge.

A quick update on downtown Fresno cconstruction projects

It’s been a few months since I’ve been able to post photos of what has been changing in downtown Fresno. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to explore the area and take photos, so I present to you a different type of update. Here are some photos I took in May, along with a look at what those projects look like this week, with photos sourced from friendly people around the web. It’s amazing how much (and how little!) can change in 3 months.=&0=&=&1=& When I last visited this project, it looked like this:=&2=&=&3=&

If you like Pokemon, you have a new reason to hate the suburbs

By now, you have most likely heard of Pokemon Go, a simple free-to-play phone game that has seemingly taken the country by storm. If you’re not playing it, you’ve certainly seen it mentioned on your social media feeds. If not there, then you’ve undoubtedly dodged people playing it while walking down the sidewalk. If that still doesn’t ring any bells, then perhaps the following articles do:

Recode: What is Pokémon Go and why is everybody talking about it?
Phily.com: Squirtle? Pikachu? Where are youse? Find ’em with new Pokemon GO app
NPR: Gotta Catch ‘Em All, Or At Least A Few: A Pokemon Neophyte Tries ‘Pokemon GO’
KTVQ: Wyoming teen playing new Pokemon game on phone discovers body
Gamespot: Washington’s Department of Transportation: don’t play while driving.
NBC LA: Players in Hunt for ‘Pokemon Go’ Monsters Feel Real-World Pain

Based off the popular game series (that turns 20 this year!) the game is all about interacting with the real world. The company which coded the game was spun off from Google, and so the game world is based off Google Maps. That means roads, buildings, parks etc. are all where you would expect them to be.

There are two core aspects of the game that rely on real world locations. Pokestops, where you can collect free items, and Pokemon Gyms, where you battle. These locations tend to be at local points of interest. Libraries, churches, fountains, random murals, historical placards etc. And of course, you encounter Pokemon on your walks to these locations.

You don’t get to these locations virtually – the game requires you to physically arrive close to that location, preferably by walking. As such, the game experience is entirely different between those who live in dense, urban areas with tight street networks and scores of points of interest, and those who don’t.

New York City
A suburb in Tennessee
An exurb
A rural area

You don’t need a Manhattan-style grid to enjoy Pokemon, but you do need density if you want to have any fun.

Sydney, Australia

Laguna Beach, California

Sure, you can drive to a Pokestop, but the game encourages physically walking via the eggs, which require distance logged to hatch. Oh, and apparently that distance counter stops if you go above 10mph, so don’t even bother cheating.

Additionally, in a dense area, a 15 minute walk can have you pass by 10 different stops, 3 gyms, and 7 Pokemon encounters. In a suburb, your drive might yield one. Not so fun. 

Pokemon Go is motivating millions of people to lace up their shoes and hit the streets in pursuit of Pokemon, Stops, and Gyms. I wonder how many people will be motivated into thinking about living somewhere a little more dense?

I’m not being entirely

facetious here. We know media and exposure has a huge effect on people’s preferences, and that includes games. Most urban planners I know played Sim City growing up. I would wager that every current NFL player spent years playing Madden and imagining themselves in the game.  Click to read more!

An overhead look at downtown Fresno before high speed rail changes everything

About a month ago, I went out and took hundreds of pictures around downtown Fresno. The intention was to post them quickly, but that obviously didn’t happen. My post about the changes at Fresno State took a few days to put together, and then I was away from the internet for a week due to a planned surgery.

This set of pictures was originally intended to show the current state of High Speed Rail (HSR) construction in Fresno. However, a lot has happened in a month, so they’re no longer current in regards to construction activity on the project itself. Instead, they will serve as a benchmark of what downtown Fresno looked like right before serious construction started in earnest, and before private investors started taking note of the prime empty lots.

I believe that HSR is going to absolutely transform downtown Fresno. Office towers that have sat empty for years will become hot amenities. Empty lots that have lain fallow since a fire 50 years ago will be quickly scooped up. Sidewalks that are empty past 5pm will be bustling when trains start unloading passengers.

Here are where things stand now.

We begin our journey from above. I’ll follow up shortly with photos showing the view from the ground.

Pictures were taken from the Pacific Southwest Tower, access thanks to Craig Scharton’s tour. First photo was taken in the direction of the red arrow, with the following pictures moving in a clockwise order, as shown by the orange arrow.

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This will be ground zero of high speed rail. The building with the yellow triangle features is the Southern Pacific Depot. The old train station, built in 1889, it is the oldest commercial building in the city. Today, it serves as office space. Amtrak runs on a different rail line and does not stop there. However, the new High Speed Rail station will be built directly behind and above it. The structure will be preserved of course.

The less attractive building in front of it was the Greyhound station. Greyhound recently left the station and moved to the current Amtrak Station. I’ll do a separate photo post about it. That building will remain standing for a couple of years for HSR related work, and then be demolished for the new station. 

Pulling back a wee bit…

Moving to the right, clockwise, we see an existing roadway underpass that’s set to be expanded to accommodate HSR. That dark blue building on the corner, in front of the Bank of America, was a very large adult store (Wildcat Adult Superstore) and has since been demolished. It had to come down due to a change in alignment of the roadway to accommodate the new underpass. Across the street, the Cosmopolitan Tavern will be demolished once their new location opens by the Convention Center. They made a deal where they bought a portion of a city owned surface parking lot to erect a new structure.I would guess the big white building closest to the tracks will also go away.

Moving the camera to the right, we see the enormous potential. Giant empty surface parking lots will make way for new offices and residential towers that want to be near the station. That pinkish building on the right is Hotel Fresno, an asset that has seen a series of failed renovation efforts. Once the station feels real to investors, watch that old hotel bloom.

Zooming in a bit (Hotel Fresno isn’t in great shape), we see the two roadway bridges over the existing rail properties. One of them is now completely gone, and I’ll have photos of that in the ground update post.

Moving to the right again, we see the Fulton Mall. If you’re familiar with Fresno, you know that this pedestrian mall is about to be ripped up and turned into a street in the name of urban revitalization. I am fully confident that those efforts will fail in returning the corridor to a shopping oasis. However, once the station opens, the corridor will be bustling. A shame that green canopy will be almost entirely obliterated.

Moving right again…

 Continuing right, we can see how far Fresno has sprawled to the horizon.

And now we’re facing the opposite direction of the rail station. The centerpiece here is the courthouse, with its park. High Speed Rail won’t bring much change to this government dominated landscape, except in adding happy pedestrians. Community Regional Medical Center are the two large buildings further back. They currently have a UCSF branch, and I can see that expanding with improved connections to SF.

Moving on, we see a more modern side of downtown Fresno, sort of. That tall building in the back is the Federal Courthouse, supposedly the tallest building in the city, I guess depending on what you measure. Built in 2005 it’s the city’s only modern tower. It’s also very attractive. The Amtrak station sits right behind it. That section of town, with the modern City Hall and the new First 5 building has a cluster of modern development. All government, but attractive. HSR won’t really make a dent over there.

I’ll have a photo update of the completed First 5 building coming up, along with a look at how Greyhound fits into the Amtrak station. Also near Amtrak is a new project which renovated and expanded an old warehouse into modern offices. 

As we keep turning, we see another lot just prime for some great development.

Now we’re back at the Fulton Mall, and Chukchansi Park, a failed effort to spark redevelopment downtown. Sure, it’s a nice stadium (and hosted the New York Cosmos in a friendly exhibition game tonight), but since it opened in 2002 it hasn’t generated much interest in the area. Supposedly that is going to change soon, but I think the HSR winds are the real reason. Let’s check back in a year to see if that proposal goes anywhere.

Behind the baseball stadium, we see the industrial side of town. There have been many plans for this area, including trying to bring in Bass Pro Shops. That obviously never happened. Lots of potential though. The South Stadium dream:

The reality:

And now we’re back to where we started. See that white mound thing in that dirt lot across the railroad tracks? The Central Fish Company is located right behind it, an interesting business that’s a mixture of a seafood counter, Asian supermarket, and lunch spot. I suggest checking it out if you haven’t. It’s part of Chinatown, an area that has a cute street grid which reminds me a lot of Old Town Clovis – but with a lot more empty buildings. That whole part of Fresno has been neglected for decades, as it sits on the “wrong” side of the tracks.

That is all for our look from above. I hope to upload pictures from the ground in the near future as well, which show the city before HSR.

They will focus on:

  • Old train station and Greyhound (future HSR station)
  • View from Chinatown
  • View from above the railroad track