Supporters of a contentious plan to access the San Joaquin River Parkway through a Fresno neighborhood won the endorsement of the state’s No. 2 politician.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom appeared in Fresno Wednesday (Nov. 29) afternoon to preside over a State Lands Commission meeting. The agenda included an advisory item on parkway access: either through River View Drive in the bluff area in northwest Fresno, or through Spano Park at Palm and Nees avenues.
Newsom, along with the other two members of the board, unanimously recommended a plan to expand a road and create a parking lot at the end of River View Drive.
Final Decision Rests with Different Board
Another state agency, the San Joaquin River Conservancy Board, actually makes that decision. The conservancy board consists of elected officials from Fresno and Madera, representatives from other state agencies (including Jennifer Lucchesi, executive officer of the Lands Commission), and at-large citizen members.
The conservancy board punted on a decision at its Nov. 15 meeting. At the time, the board could only vote definitively on the Spano Park plan. The board opted to allow staff to come up with more options for its next meeting on Dec. 13.
The prior meeting took seven hours and dozens of speakers advocating for the River View Drive plan (called Alternative 1) and the Spano Park plan (called Alternative 5B).
Fresno Mayor Lee Brand spoke passionately at the Nov. 15 meeting in support of 5B. He sided with residents of the neighborhood near River View Drive, who said that providing access there would lead to more traffic and dangerous conditions.
Spano Park Supporters, Including City Hall, Keep Quiet
Wednesday’s Lands Commission meeting only instructed how one of the 14 river board members should vote. Four community members spoke, advocating for Alternative 1. No one spoke for 5B, despite a large turnout of supporters two weeks earlier.
It was a fact not lost upon Newsom.
“No one here advocating for 5B? None of the folks at that council meeting,” Newsom said as he closed out public comment. “It shows the value of being here. It also suggests that those who aren’t here may not feel as strongly or perhaps have conflicts. Curiously, no one is here to oppose, which is interesting.”
Calls to City Hall, asking why no one spoke at the meeting, were not returned.