Dirk Poeschel might as well have been on a suicide mission.

The planning consultant had the unenviable task of trying to convince hundreds from a northwest Fresno neighborhood that a new apartment complex in their residential area was a good idea.

The crowd wasn’t buying it, and the end result is Poeschel’s clients — Robert Lattanzio and Lou Amendola — need to go back to the drawing board.

“That’s kind of expected. People don’t like change. Sometimes regardless of the facts or studies you present to them, they have a hard time accepting them. That’s how it is,” Poeschel said after the meeting.

Contentious Community Meeting

“This has been zoned a certain way for a reason. And, that is an agreement with the neighborhoods.”Resident Vicki Allen-Westburg

The Thursday night meeting at Forkner Elementary School was the first step for developers to rezone a 10-acre piece of land from office space to multifamily units. They proposed two- and three-story buildings, with a fitness center and covered parking.

Based on the objections made by the attendees, things will change.

The empty plot of land sits between the school and Herndon Avenue. Poeschel noted that it had been zoned for 40 years as office space, with no developers willing to build there.

The neighbors made many of the arguments heard when new development is proposed: increased traffic and parking, the effect on schools and home prices, the potential of “undesirables” moving in.

Poeschel was in damage control mode from the start. He quashed a rumor right away that the apartments would be Section 8. He said they would sell at market rate, and be gated with an average rent of $2,000.

Vicki Allen-Westburg, an educator, served as the de factor neighborhood organizer. She said she supports development, but not rezoning of this parcel.

“This has been zoned a certain way for a reason. And, that is an agreement with the neighborhoods,” Allen-Westburg said.

She would prefer to see the space used for low-density, one-story homes.

Others in the meeting expressed hostility toward Poeschel and the proposal. Some shouted him down from the start. “We are here to say no. Why waste our time?” said one resident.

“I want smart growth. And that means you come to the neighborhood and you make sure you are conforming to what the neighbors want.”Councilman Mike Karbassi

Fresno City Councilman Mike Karbassi addressed the audience. Only a week on the job, Karbassi told the developers to listen and work with the people. As it stands, Karbassi said, the project’s lack of neighborhood support is “unacceptable.”

“I want smart growth. And that means you come to the neighborhood and you make sure you are conforming to what the neighbors want,” Karbassi said.

Without that, he said a rezone wouldn’t happen. Poeschel said that he appreciated Karbassi’s words.

“He was doing us a favor. We have to go back and think about how we change the project and make it acceptable,” Poeschel said.

Poeschel says in his experience, opposition dies down when changes are made.

What About Housing?

“There is a whole segment of the community that are really good people, just don’t want to own a home. If the prevalent attitude here is … that means you couldn’t live in this neighborhood. I don’t think that’s is fair, and I don’t think that’s what the law intended.” — Planning consultant Dirk Poeschel

The issue also underscored the difficulty of building multifamily housing not only Fresno but throughout many parts of California. State officials, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, have cited NIMBY — or Not in My Backyard — attitudes as contributing to California’s housing shortage.

“Things happen when you have apartments,” resident Max Soler said at the meeting. “I don’t want that happening in my neighborhood.”

Allen-Westburg said there is a difference between owners and renters.

“I think homeowners have a different attitude about their home. They are investing in something. It’s a monetary cost … Apartments have less than that. People aren’t as invested. They are easier to come and go,” she said.

Poeschel said there are people who don’t want the hassle of home-ownership.

“There is a whole segment of the community that are really good people, just don’t want to own a home. If the prevalent attitude here is … that means you couldn’t live in this neighborhood. I don’t think that’s is fair, and I don’t think that’s what the law intended,” Poeschel said.

Karbassi said he doesn’t see the need to rezone the land into housing right now.

“If anything, it’s going to really upset the people that live here and are directly impacted by it too,” Karbassi said.

10 Responses

  1. Matthew

    Well, I wonder if the developer wanted the future renters to take the bus. That would have partially addressed the traffic issue neighbors were worried about.

    Reply
  2. Janet Marshall

    I am very opposed to the apartment complex proposal at Herndon and Valentine as the backyard of our home is directly across the street. Our homes are not “gated” so how are we to feel safe? There are good people who want to live in our neighborhood? Then tell them to put their money where their mouth is and purchase a home the same way we did in order to live in our neighborhood. We moved away from our home in Madera because as older folks passed away or moved, their homes became “rentals” and the neighborhood started to fill up with undesirables who did not take pride in keeping their home and yard clean and maintained, they’re simply not invested. It will only be a matter of time when Section 8 people will move into your complex. As a youngster, I lived in a Section 8 apartment complex in Seaside, CA. My single mother and I were the only white people living there and we were bullied by the black people, I never went outside by myself!! Find another site for those people who want to live in a nice area but do not want to purchase a home, that just tells me they cannot afford to live in our area.

    Our daughter is grown, but I’m sure other folks who purchased homes in our area did so, so their children could attend Folkner Elementary. These apartments for 160 families that sit right next to the school will push these folks who “own” their homes and pay “higher property taxes” into a redistricted zone and their children will have to attend another school located farther away. That’s totally unacceptable! I am disgusted by the fact that people who work long and hard (remember I came out of a Section 8 area) to get ahead are expected to sacrifice for those less fortunate. NO! I have never been given nor accepted a handout to get where I am today. I worked hard and I EARNED IT! Build your “affordable” housing in another area better suited for the inhabitants.

    FYI and BTW, everyone in our culdesac has been robbed, so we have security doors and alarm systems, and we can’t leave garage doors open. There are many senior citizens in our neighborhood that don’t want or need more criminal element added to our area.

    Go back to the drawing board and create a proposal for $400K+ homes and or condos to be purchased, not rented. Otherwise leave it zoned for commercial. There is plenty of open land in the Central Valley that is less expensive for your affordable homes. How about all that open land by Valley Children’s Hospital, your affordable housing can be right next door where they can get free medical care, I know, I worked there for 25 years…

    Reply
  3. Jane

    So they think that people who can afford $2,000 a month are undesirable for their neighborhood? What a bunch of snobs! Some people just don’t want the hassle of owning their own home… they they like apartment living because they don’t have to be responsible for the repairs that come with owning your own home and that’s okay, these are still rich people just like them. What they’re really saying is that they don’t want anyone ethnic moving into their precious neighborhood even if they are rich. Nice job Northwest Fresno.

    Reply
  4. Robert McEwen

    I truly believe that the reasons stated by the residents are valid. The artery access in and out of this corner is horrific. In order to address it the road in and out of there would have o be widened or rerouted. Without that the majority of the traffic will travel through the neighborhood. One hundred-sixty units is a lot of people and a lot of cars. The frontage road that curves off of Beechwood and Valentine is terrible and the roundabout was an attempt to control traffic but has done nothing but make it worse. If you want to go west from Valentine you drive toward the park, make a u-turn through the roundabout, head back south, and turn west. I’ve seen a lot of people just drive north in the southbound lane and make the quick left onto the frontage road. It’s an accident waiting to happen. People wanting to go east on the frontage to get to Savemart have to go out on to Herndon Ave, drive through the neighborhood for a half mile or more, or make an illegal left and go north in the southbound lane of Valentine Ave to get to Savemart. The most functional solution is to bring Beechwood through to Valentine Ave and close the frontage road and get rid of the roundabout as well. The problem is that this will split the parcel in thirds which limits development.

    A better fit would be to force an infill project with a couple single family residences or another project similar to what Granville built behind and across from the Savemart.

    Reply
  5. S

    Excellent point. It is time for the people of Fresno help to decide how the city deveops…not the greedy developers.
    .

    Reply
  6. virginia gentile

    I am 100% against the apartment project. I have lived through 2 homes being ruined by
    building large apt. complexes near by! It always, I mean always happens, they should only be single family homes to buy. The neighborhood will be destroyed with apartment built!!!!!! This is fact! Just look into it and you will see. It is just FACT.

    Reply
  7. Jerry Duncan

    As a former Fresno City Councilmember for Northeast Fresno, my experience is that high rent apartments do not cause any of the problems some people seem to be worried about. Many new apartments have been built in Northease Fresno, near homes and the history is: no increase in crime, no falling property values, no overcrowding of schools and as far as traffic is concerned you wouldn’t even notice a difference. The ones here are well build with architecture that fits splendidly with the neighborhood.
    NIMBY people need to chill out.

    Reply
  8. Terence M O’Connor

    Why would a developer spend a couple million dollars (two years ago) for an apartment complex when the property is zoned for office only? Answer: The fix is in. The developer bought the necessary votes to change the zoning.

    Reply
  9. Jan Mitchell

    Long ago, when the community plan was developed for this area, I worked as a planner for the City of Fresno, involved in all of the creation and hearings for the plan. I no longer live in Fresno, but I grew up there and know the area. There was no ultimate wisdom for the office designation–simply that other commercial uses didn’t fit with the Herndon Ave. Expressway access limitations or the proximity of residential neighborhoods. There is evidently more office land than demand requires. Not everyone these days can afford or wants home ownership, unlike my generation. Certainly, renters who can afford a $2,000/month apartment need not be stigmatized by neighbors–they may well be your children or their friends. Apartments or condos can be designed to minimize traffic impacts. I learned from the City’s traffic engineers and hope that staff still retain the same expertise. So, Northwest Fresnans, don’t be snobs–work with the developers and staff. The market does change, and we couldn’t completely predict in the 1980s what would be needed in 2019. The developers were interested in what we were doing, but their focus was not this area, and all of them who were there at the time are either retired or dead. Find a constructive way to work and contribute to your neighborhood.

    Reply
  10. Debbie Nard

    This has nothing to do with NIMBY. This property was accessed
    By the Valentine frontage road for many years. Recently when
    Leo Wilson built a high density housing project, you were no
    Longer able to access the original neighborhoods by using the
    Frontage road as it had always existed. You now have to turn
    Right (the street name was now named Prospect ) and go up and
    Around a ridiculous roundabout and the go back to the frontage
    Road. This has completely changed the traffic patterns in the
    Original neighborhoods and also much of the incoming traffic
    To the schools. Many original residents no longer use the Prospect
    Intersection and drive through the neighborhood to use either
    Marks or Brawley. The school traffic also does this which has put
    A tremendous amount of traffic on Fir which is a neighborhood
    Residential street. Access for public safety vehicles has been a real
    Concern since the roundabout was installed. I called the Fire Dept.
    After it was installed and was told that the city approved it. These
    Developers say that the Prospect intersection is dangerous. I
    Couldn’t agree more, but their plan does nothing to improve it. The
    City of Fresno has consistently promised (going back to at least when
    Orchid Park was built and Chris Mathys was Councilman) that the
    Frontage road would be moved up to connect with Beechwood. I
    Have followed up on this many times with the city and have been
    Assured that this was still the plan. Scott Mozier has promised this.
    We have two apartment complexes in this neighbor hood already and
    Density is increased over what we were promised with every
    Development that is built. We lived in apartments for the first years
    Of our marriage. Interest rates were sky high and we were able
    To save our money. We were very careful about where we invested
    Our money and expected that the promises that were made to us
    Regarding zoning and schools would be kept. The property owners
    Knew what the zoning was when they bought the property and they
    Should have been able to see that the valentine/Prospect intersection
    was never designed for high density traffic. The undeveloped property
    On the east side of Valentine is already zoned for high density, so that
    Will already add a lot of traffic to an intersection that wasn’t designed
    For it when developed. From what I understand Forkner school is
    Currently at capacity, so the concerns of the people who live just
    South of Herndon are real. The city stuck Orchid Park in this
    Neighborhood with totally inadequate parking for some of the
    Events that are held there. The school also has inadequate parking.
    Our concerns are real and it would be nice if the city had some respect
    For the people who have made aninvestment in the city instead of
    Letting every sneaky developer schedule required meetings the
    Thursday night before a holiday weekend when they were probably
    Hoping that we wouldn’t have a councilperson to represent us. They
    Want to come in, change the entire fabric of our neighborhood and then, when we object, for very valid reasons, we
    Become the bad guys. This developer obviously wants to
    Make as much money as he can with absolutely no
    Concern what so ever for the current residents.
    Jerry Duncan, most of northeast Fresno is comparatively
    Newer and the apartment complexes are located on
    Streets that can handle the traffic. As a former councilman
    I would hope that you would want the city to uphold the
    Promises that you made to your constituents.
    Designed for

    Reply

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