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.
If you support investment in a strong downtown, curtailing sprawl, focusing on infill, fighting slumlords, and supporting high speed rail, which candidate should you support in the upcoming Fresno mayoral election?
|Downtown Fresno, before the removal of the Fulton Mall|
The good news is that fortunately for Fresno, neither candidate is a disaster. Neither candidate has declared that downtown should be abandoned, or that bike lanes are part of a secret international agenda, for example. Unfortunately, that means that voting tomorrow becomes a little harder, because one has to conduct a little research.
The candidates are Democrat Henry Perea and Republican Lee Brand. If you only follow national politics, the choice seems simple. For whatever reason, over the last decades, the Republican Party has taken stances against sustainable transportation, High Speed Rail, and investment in infill. But we’re talking about Fresno, and it’s not so clear cut.
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.
Darius Assemi is the president of Granville Homes, one of the most prolific residential developers in the Fresno area (one which oddly doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry). According to his LinkedIn profile, he has been president for 6 years, and served as vice president for 25 years before that. The guy knows the Fresno market well, especially when it comes to selling single-family homes.
But how much does he know about funding our infrastructure? Let’s take a look at his Fresno Bee editorial on the subject. Here are his main points:
- Deteriorating roads cost Californians $44 billion a year in repairs, accidents, time and fuel
- Deferred repair costs exceeding $57 billion
- Caused by diminishing purchasing power of gas tax
- Not tied to inflation
- More fuel efficient cars mean less gas taxes
- Raising gas tax
- Indexing gas tax to inflation
- Increasing fees
- New usage based fee
- Caltrans performance should be equal to or exceed private performance
- More efficient staffing
- Increased transparency
Generally, it’s a pretty standard set of recommendations. The only big controversy is the “highway only” line for funding, although it appears he’s more concerned with the previous raid of the transportation fund to plug other budgets rather than eliminating all subsidies of mass transit. It is unclear if he also wants to eliminate that. As a suburban developer, I wouldn’t be surprised if transit didn’t even cross his mind when he penned his piece.
There’s something almost sinister about the way a developer gushes about the natural landscapes, beautiful views, and rolling hills he is about to bulldoze to build cookie-cutter tract homes.
The Madera County Planning Commission approved the tentative map for the first phase of the project two and a half weeks ago. Now, the builder is working on detailed plans which will bring more than 850 homes to what Bob McCaffrey, the company’s chief executive officer, calls “the most romantic piece of land” he’s ever seen.
Tesoro Viejo — which will eventually have 5,190 homes on 1,600 acres — will follow the natural ebbs and flows of the land which includes rock formations, high and low elevations and a river that flows along the northern edge of the property.
Developers aching for more sprawl versus everybody else. Sound familiar?
Sometimes Fresno feels like a broken record, and this time it’s no different. Tomorrow, the City Council may finally vote on the 2035 General Plan Update. The plan supports infill development as an attempt to curtail the ever-expanding city boundary. It won’t BAN sprawl, it will just aim to decrease it. But for some, that’s too much.
Naturally, the developers of tract homes aren’t pleased, and they have the attention of Chief Tea Party Council President Steve Brandau who helped killed the fully funded BRT project, and has also eliminated every road diet proposal that comes his way. In his mind, everybody in Fresno is well-off, everybody drives, and everybody wants to live the suburban dream. After all, that’s what he wants, and so naturally, that’s all that matters. Throw in some free market voodoo, and you have yourself the developers best friend.
Yesterday’s election news keeping you down? Maybe this surprising development will brighten your day.
This week, the Fresno Bee reported that the massive Westlake sprawl project has been put on hold – for at least a decade. The news came as a great surprise because last December the developer, Granville, began mobilizing bulldozers to flatten the land.
Developer Darius Assemi, president of Granville Homes, said the timing isn’t right for his Westlake development, which lies beyond Fresno’s city limits. The cost to build is too high and he’s waiting to see the city of Fresno’s growth plan for the area before moving ahead with the project.
All the information you need is on this page, but a quick summary here.
- Last general plan update was November 2012
- This proposed one is controversial because developers dislike how it mentions focusing on infill vs sprawl
- The draft General Plan is available for a 45-day public review period commencing on Wednesday, July 2, 2014 and ending on Monday, August 18, 2014.
The middle point is why public comment may actually be important. Don’t let the developers sabotage the plan, let the city know you support infill development.
Mind you, the developers have already managed to water it down:
“The Council’s modified (plan) shifted more development to
single-family housing and with more focus on growth west and southwest
of State Route 99, but maintained a strong commitment to Downtown and
major corridor revitalization, Complete Neighborhoods, and more compact
Update: Kiel Shmidt has put together an excellent map of the project, how it compared to another Granville development (Running Horse) and the city boundaries.
That map can be seen here.
The Fresno Bee has published their article on the subject, including some good pictures of the site. That article can be read here.
In 2005, Granville proposed a giant exurban residential development west of Fresno.
Now they’re making moves to actually build it.
They’re calling it Westlake, and they want to use 430 acres to build 2,600 new homes….and a giant lake. In typical Granville fashion, they want to do this in the middle of nowhere, far from jobs, businesses, and entertainment. Well, not nowhere – the area has plenty of productive farms.
Over the past decade, California has passed various laws and initiatives aimed at decreasing driving, carbon emissions, and sprawl.
No one has told the Central Valley, which is celebrating the groundbreaking of yet another highway expansion project.
Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/08/16/3445266/work-kicks-off-on-next-eastward.html#storylink=cpy
“This will connect us all in a more meaningful way,” said Henry
Perea, chairman of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors and one of
many speakers at a ground-breaking ceremony Friday. “When I see this
freeway, I see a gateway to economic prosperity.”
This week the Fresno Bee announced that yet another round of highway expansions would kick off in the rural parts of the county. The expansion plan will take a two-lane road, and make it four lanes, with a median wide enough to support two more.