Category: Housing

Belated Downtown Fresno Photo Update

I went downtown a couple of months ago (January) to take photos, as I usually do. I hesitated on posting them because frankly, not much has changed over the last year. This is in contrast to five years ago, when there was always a new building popping up.

Then corona hit, and the photos seemed even less relevant, but now I’ve changed my mind on that. With the virus, everything is essentially frozen in time. Nothing is under construction, nothing will be open any time soon, and nobody is lining up to lay down piles of cash on new development. That is, even if the virus suddenly disappeared tomorrow, there are too many questions about the economy for investors. Will people get their jobs back? Will there be a change in demand for office space? Click to read more!

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 construction 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.

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=&1=& When I last visited this project, it looked like this:

And now it looks like this:

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Source: High Speed Rail Authority

The bridge is slated to be completed this year.

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It is very difficult to provide a summary of the Fulton Mall, because it is such a massive project. That is, every block is in a different stage of development, as you can see in my full post here. However, the most obvious changes are at the southern end, where construction began.

My photos from May:

 

Steve Skibbie provides a look at progress this week from overhead.

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And the Fresno Bee from the ground.

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Bus Rapid Transit is sort of under construction. I say sort of because Fresno is no longer getting anything that resembles BRT. But those sweet, sweet transit funds are being put to use. The project involves realigning some bus stops – which happens to be a perfect opportunity to rebuilt the Van Ness underpass. Indeed, it’s why BRT is so expensive, most of the funding is being used to upgrade old car infrastructure, like traffic lights, and do so while spending transit funds. Sad.

I don’t have a before photo, so here is a rendering of the new intersection (above the underpass)

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And another great photo by Steve Skibbie.

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And one from the Downtown Fresno Partnership

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It’s not all transportation related!

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The Lede is a full block residential development by GV Urban. It looked mostly done when I photographed it in May, but apparently got held up by utility issues and will open next month. Here are my photos from May:

 

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And an interior shot by GV Urban.

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Nearby preservation of a beautiful brick building is underway.

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Progress has been very slow on the Cultural Arts park, which is now about a year behind schedule.

From May:

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Christopher Rocha shared updated photos on the Downtown Fresno Facebook page.

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And finally, moving a little north, to 541 at South Tower, a brand new building constructed in a beautiful art deco style.

Here it is back in May:

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And more recently on the Facebook page:

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Bonus: The style fits in with the area:

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There’s a lot going on, regarding infrastructure, although this investment has yielded little private (unsubsidized) investment. Let’s hope that changes soon.

Other development in the area includes:

-Yet another expansion to Community Medical Center
-BitWise technology center
-The renovation of Warehouse Row.

The First5 building was also finished, which I profiled before, and the Greyhound station is about to be demolished.

I’ll probably do another photo update before the end of the year, when the Fulton project is completed.

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!