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Jobs vs. Community Health: What Will Fresno Decide on Massive Business Park?

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Distribution centers for Ulta Beauty and Amazon already are under construction. Now, a 2 million-square-foot industrial buisness park could join them in south Fresno.
(Editor’s Note: You can view drone aerial footage of the site in the video above, as well as hear from supporters and opponents of the project.)
The Fresno City Council will vote Thursday on the 110-acre industrial space project brought forth by Caglia Environmental. Family spokesman Richard Caglia did not say which companies might come to the industrial park.
The Fresno Planning Department approved the project last October. A few weeks later, a coalition of environmental and neighborhood groups filed a formal appeal of the planning department’s decision.
City staff now is recommending that the city council deny the appeal and approve the environmental impact report, just as the Fresno Planning Commission did last month.

‘Prime’ Land

“No pun intended, but the Caglia Industrial Park location is a prime location for internet retailers, fulfillment centers as well as light manufacturers and other ancillary businesses that typically go up around large users like Amazon and Ulta,” Caglia said.
The land is located on the north side of Central Avenue, between Orange and Cedar avenues. The area is zoned heavy industrial by the city.

“The area of the Caglia Environmental Industrial Park will be an excellent hub for economic development and thousands of well-paid jobs.”Richard Caglia
On the other side of Orange, Amazon is building its 855,000 square-foot fulfillment center. Ulta’s 670,500 square-foot facility is a half-mile away at the northwest corner of Central and East avenues.
The area is known as the “reverse triangle,” south of the intersection of highways 41 & 99.
The project calls for up to seven reinforced concrete buildings, ranging from 124,200 square feet to 1 million square feet. The maximum size for the entire project is 2,145,420 square feet.
The proposed development would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The developer estimates 6,260 average daily trips in and out of the facility.
Caglia also says the land is ready to go in terms of sewer, water and even fiber for internet.
“The Caglia family is optimistic that the new industrial parks in the area will likely be welcome catalysts for new technologies that will continue to push Fresno as the ideal place to be.  The area of the Caglia Environmental Industrial Park will be an excellent hub for economic development and thousands of well-paid jobs,” said Caglia, who is a State Center Community College District trustee.
Jose Mora, client services manager at the Fresno Economic Development Corp., is excited about the Caglia project.
“The impact that we can have on the unemployment rate, I think, would be significant,” Mora said. “Adding another 2,000-3,000 jobs in addition to the economic growth we’ve already had is just going to continue to add to the good news that we see.”

Community Protest

But, not everyone is happy with the facility’s potential approval.

According to CalEnviroScreen 3.0, a state tool that determines the level of air pollution in a given neighborhood, the area of the Caglia business park and the surrounding neighborhood score the worst.
A group, led by the Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability, says that the city did not perform proper environmental impact reports and did not let the proper committees vet the project.
Environmental impacts, city documents say, “would be reduced to less than significant with project specific mitigation measures incorporated.” Some of those measures include flood control and air quality requirements, improving the interchange at Highway 99, and payment of impact fees.
According to CalEnviroScreen 3.0, a state tool that determines the level of air pollution in a given neighborhood, the area of the Caglia business park and the surrounding neighborhood score the worst. The area scored in the 91-100% range, the worst designation. Much of south Fresno is in the same range.
The appeal also claims that the city missed a step in the approval process. The project did not go before the District 3 Implementation Committee. However, that committee is inactive.
District 3 Councilman Oliver Baines says he supports the project and he does not believe the appeal will prevail.
The appellant group also says that the project would have “disproportionate adverse impacts to residents of the City and County of Fresno based on race, color, country of origin, and other protected characteristics in violation of the state and federal fair housing and civil rights laws.”
Said the EDC’s Mora: “Certainly you want to be sensitive to those communities. But projects like these are going to bring jobs to those communities. It certainly is a balance there. Certainly, for the city, that is something they are going to have to look at and consider.”

Macias Family Concerns

Daniel Macias is part of a neighborhood group called South Central Neighbors United that is opposing the project.

“I would invite anyone of them to come live here and change houses with us, so they can enjoy the environment they are creating.” — Leo Macias, a south Fresno resident
His father Leo bought their family home, across Central Avenue from the Caglia project, 50 years ago. The Macias family says that farmland surrounded them when they moved there. Now, it is home to industrial Fresno.
“We bought it to get out of the city. And now, we are basically being displaced by the city. With the proposal of these industrial complexes, it takes away that part of a lifestyle that we’ve enjoyed, not to mention the environmental impacts,” Daniel Macias, a trucker, said. “Personally, I wouldn’t want this complex to go up.”
The city of Fresno zoned the area as heavy industrial as part of the 1984 General Plan.
Leo Macias has a request of City Hall.
“I would invite anyone of them to come live here and change houses with us, so they can enjoy the environment they are creating.”
You should know that Leo and Daniel Macias are cancer survivors. Leo says that many of the neighborhood’s residents have beat cancer or died from it.
The elder Macias has advice for his children.
“My concern and my advice to my sons is, get out of Dodge and try to find a safer place.”

Mayor Brand Backs Project

Mayor Lee Brand, speaking on KVPR radio’s “Valley Edition” says that the Caglia project could bring in 1,000 jobs as an e-commerce center. It would help fulfill the mayor’s goal of 5,000 new jobs for the city in his first term.

“You have to have a vehicle that lifts people out of poverty. To me, this is the best way to change the narrative.” — Fresno Mayor Lee Brand
“This is the future of Fresno,” Brand said. “You have to have a vehicle that lifts people out of poverty. To me, this is the best way to change the narrative.”
Daniel Macias wants more jobs, too, but questions the price to nearby residents.
“I fully agree with the city’s need to attract businesses,” he said, “but not at the expense of surrounding communities.”

David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email