Fresno City Councilman Clint Olivier’s voice demonstrated his internal conflict Thursday (Dec. 7) before approving city funding for a $38 million affordable housing project.

The avowed Libertarian anguished over spending any government money on such a system to build subsidized housing. Yet, he knew if the city didn’t pony up $5.3 million, the millions of state funds that go with it would evaporate.

If there was one thing agreed upon by supporters and opponents of the affordable housing plan, it was that the project cost too much. Everyone — from Mayor Lee Brand to the conservatives on the council to even the developer — identified state mandates that inflate costs. Free of those mandates, private developers can build similar projects for less.

Jake Lingo of Integrated Community Development said he understood the objections to the project at the southwest corner of Blackstone and McKinley avenues. For $38 million, the project will yield 88 units and first-floor retail (scheduled to be a medical clinic and a senior center). That is more than $430,000 per unit.

Lingo, and his brother Ben, said those state requirements include high building standards (LEED Gold and Net Zero) along with paying workers the prevailing wage rate. These mandates add about $160,000 per unit. But, without subsidies (mainly from state grants and loans), the project doesn’t happen and there is no affordable housing built.

That was the debate, and the reluctance Olivier felt. He knew that if he turned down spending city money, the state money would just go somewhere else.

“I detest this stinky rotten system that we have in California,” he lamented from the dais.

The vote was divided into four parts — three for spending city funds and one for approval of an owner-participation agreement with the developer. The spending motions needed five votes to pass, with Olivier serving as the fifth vote. All three passed 5-2. Olivier voted down the agreement, which just needed the 4-3 majority it received.

Otherwise, It was a Breezy Meeting

The $38 million project provided the tension for council this week. Otherwise, everything else passed unanimously, including selling a plot of land adjacent to the New Exhibit Hall at the corner of  Inyo and M streets. A hotel operator based in Fowler purchased the property for $644,688. The goal is to build a Marriott or Hilton by 2020. There is a caveat: If construction doesn’t happen, the city gets the land back.

“Judicial Hellhole”

A grassroots group focusing on judicial reform ranks California the second worst “judicial hellhole.” California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse says in 2017 the state Legislature passed 859 new laws “making it virtually impossible for well-intentioned employers to stay abreast of changes and protect themselves from lawsuits, or lawsuit abuse.”

The group tracked 820,000 lawsuits filed just in state courts. They feel the mountain of legislation is preventing businesses from thriving and they want reform, particularly with environmental review and disability access.

Florida is the nation’s No. 1 judicial hellhole in the group’s rankings.

Where’s Guillermo?

Guillermo Moreno

Guillermo Moreno is no longer hosting his radio show on Power Talk 96.7. The former state Republican Party official tells Politics 101 he is taking time off to concentrate on his day job: administering one of the largest senior citizen living complexes in the Valley.

He said he would like to return to the airwaves in the near future.

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