Fresno Humane Animal Services wants to build a new $6 million shelter and animal hospital. It has the land. It has preliminary approvals. It is fundraising to build a first-rate operation.
But some residents are against the four-acre facility, which is proposed on Grantland Avenue, between Parkway Drive, Tenaya Avenue, and Highway 99.
Neighbors cite the potential for increased traffic as their top reason for opposition.
The land belongs to Wesclo, LP, a corporate cousin to Derrel’s Mini Storage. The company is donating the land.
The location is in unincorporated Fresno County, hence the last word belongs to the Board of Supervisors. The nonprofit shelter wants the board to rezone the area from residential to commercial use.
The shelter now operates in the parking lot of the old county morgue at 760 W. Nielsen Ave.
“It’s miserable out here in this parking lot. If we don’t get to build this shelter for this community, it’ll be nothing short of tragic for these animals. It would be just an absolute heartache,” said Brenda Mitchell, board president for Fresno Humane Animal Services.
New Location Needed, Says Nonprofit
Mitchell said the current location was only supposed to be temporary, lasting 90 days. The shelter has been there for nearly six years.
“This is not large enough for the quantity of animals that Fresno County has, so we have to work so hard to get them out, just to keep saving their lives,” Mitchell said.
She also cited being set up on blacktop as a big problem. This means things are hot during summer and not nearly warm enough in winter.
The shelter is home to 150 dogs and 60 cats. The new facility would contain 185 indoor/outdoor kennels with proper sanitation to avoid illnesses caused by overcrowding.
“This shelter is being built to be great for humans and animals. And, animals don’t like all that nonsense, either,” Mitchell said.
An online petition cites increased traffic at the busy Herndon/Grantland/99 intersection as the main reason to reject the rezone. The petition has 98 supporters, most of them listed as living in Fresno.
A petition in favor of the shelter has nearly 35,000 supporters, about 2,200 of which reside in Fresno.
Mannie Camarena lives a half-mile from the proposed location and has organized a grass-roots movement against the bigger facility. She emphasizes that it’s the traffic she opposes — not animals.
“It’s just the lack of infrastructure. It’s not the cause that they want an animal shelter. We’re not against animals. I love animals,” Camarena said. “We just can’t sustain it on that side of town.”
Camarena says she doesn’t know how much traffic the shelter brings, but notes the new home developments in the area. The only nearby roads connecting the homes west of Highway 99 to the rest of the city are Herndon and Shaw avenues. Traffic delays are frequent.
“If it’s another location, we’re all in support of it. But in the neighborhood that is zoned for residential — that’s not zoned for commercial or industrial— and that’s what (the supervisors) are going to vote on September 11,” Camarena added.
Plans Call for Derrel’s Mini Storage to Enclose Shelter
Mitchell, of FHAS, said she understands the traffic concerns but doesn’t think it will be an issue.
For starters, the shelter would not open to the public until 10 a.m.
“We’re not that busy of an operation in the first place. Shelters are notoriously not visited in Fresno. We hope it will be beautiful and will increase (traffic),” Mitchell said.
Mitchell also said a shelter is a better alternative than other choices for the vacant land, like commercial truck/bus parking or an apartment complex. Also, the plan is for a Derrel’s Mini Storage to be built around the shelter.
Camarena wants the county to provide better infrastructure in the area and retain the current zoning. In July, the Fresno County Planning Commission approved the zoning change, from rural residential to conditional light manufacturing on a 5-4 vote.
Neighboring Church Supports
Grantland Avenue Southern Baptist Church is north of the proposed location for the shelter.
The church’s pastor, Steve Morris, said he doesn’t mind furry friends nearby.
“If that’s what (Derrel’s Mini Storage founder) Derrel (Ridenour) wants to do for his property and the contribution that it brings — the idea of taking care of animals, having a better spot — I can’t see much wrong with it,” Morris said.
He also supports the shelter on a biblical level.
“The scripture says preach gospel to all creatures, so I guess they qualify,” Morris said.
Pacheco Weighs In
The proposed location is in Fresno County Supervisor Brian Pacheco’s district. He supports the concept of a new shelter but says he recognizes the objections of some nearby residents.
“I think we can agree right now we have an inadequate facility,” Pacheco said. “Fresno Humane is doing a tremendous job under these difficult circumstances getting animals to rescue in California and the rest of the country.”
He added: “I understand neighbors don’t think it is a good fit for them. I’m open to listening and making a decision after hearing everything at the meeting. I want to hear from all sides.”
The board is scheduled to hear the zoning change 10 a.m. Sept. 11 at the Hall of Records, Room 301, 2281 Tulare Street, in downtown Fresno.