Neighbors in south Fresno are suing the city over the city council’s approval of a 2 million-square-foot industrial park. They claim the city failed to follow environmental review standards.
The council passed a project proposed by Caglia Environmental on Jan. 25 with a 7-0 vote. The project is located on the north side of Central Avenue between Orange and Cedar avenues. It is across the street from the under-construction Amazon distribution center and a half-mile east of Ulta’s facility that is also in the building process.
It is not yet known what types of businesses would occupy the 110-acre Caglia project.
The area south of the intersection of highways 41 and 99 in south Fresno is referred to as the “reverse triangle.” Mayor Lee Brand touted the area as the future of e-commerce and the thousands of jobs that could come with it.
Caglia Environmental and Richard Caglia (also an elected trustee of the State Center Community College District) are listed as Real Parties in Interest.
Those mega facilities come with a cost, environmental groups say. The developer estimates there will be 6,260 average daily vehicle trips in and out of the facility.
The plaintiffs are the South Central Neighbors United, a group “dedicated to preventing environmental degradation and to the improvement of environmental quality in the neighborhoods,” the suit says. They filed in Fresno County Superior Court.
“The city of Fresno recklessly approved the construction of a massive industrial park project in one of the state’s most pollution-burdened communities,” said the group’s attorney, Ashley Werner.
“In doing so, SCNU are forced to bring this suit to protect their homes, health, and neighborhoods, for themselves and for their children.”
During the council debate in January, Councilman Steve Brandau called Werner and her group, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, “poverty pimps.” He explained in a video after the fact he did so because of “their dishonest attempts at stopping an industrial park.”
Brandau also said at the January meeting that Werner purposely provided the state Department of Justice with incomplete information about the land’s zoning. He said, too, that Werner asked for that area to be zoned industrial in meetings about the Southwest Fresno Specific Plan.
That area has been zoned as heavy industrial since 1984.
Brandau didn’t have a favorable opinion of the lawsuit.
“[I’m] saddened that some folks are fighting a serious job producing strategy for Fresno residents,” he told GV Wire.
In the lawsuit, SCNU says that the city’s environmental review failed to analyze the environmental effects as required by the California Environmental Quality Act. The suit also claims that the proposed industrial park is inconsistent with the city’s General Plan and local Roosevelt Community Plan. The suit additionally alleges that the city failed to hold a public meeting to obtain public input.
Specifically, Werner said the city did not adequately research how the project will affect nearby residents’ well water and soil.
The group is asking the court to reverse the council’s approval. It also seeks an injunction to prevent Caglia Environmental from starting the project.
Werner is partnering with Ellison Folk and Edward Schexnayder of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP of San Francisco in the lawsuit.
Defendants Digesting Suit
Council President Esmeralda Soria declined to comment, saying she had not seen the lawsuit.
Richard Caglia said he has yet to read the suit as well. “I was aware they filed an intent to sue, but I have not seen the complaint,” he told GV Wire.
Mayor Lee Brand’s office did not respond to a request for comment.