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Bill McEwen

It's Time for The Gap to Return the Love to Fresno



The Gap logo incorporated into a picture of a dog in a cage
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The ball is teed up waiting for The Gap to hit it out of the ballpark.
As you might know, the city has been very good to the San Francisco-based company whose clothing brands include Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Athleta.

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Portrait of GV Wire News Director Bill McEwen
Bill McEwen
In fact, the city sold the San Francisco-based international corporation 200 acres of prime land adjacent to Fresno Yosemite International Airport for $2 in 1997.
Then, last year, the Fresno City Council approved a tax-incentive deal that brought The Gap’s e-commerce fulfillment center here. The 30-year contract provides $15,000 in sales-tax rebates for every full-time job created beyond 500.

How About Donating Land for Animal Shelter?

Meanwhile, our city is under the gun to build a $15 million animal shelter because its contract with the Central California SPCA will expire in June.
So, how about The Gap donate land it isn’t using — let’s say 10 acres — back to the city? After all, the location is ideal, much of the infrastructure is in place, and the city could shave that $15 million pricetag.
One more thing: Out by the airport, you won’t have NIMBYs complaining about a shelter coming to their neighborhood.
“There are some who feel that companies like The Gap are all about corporate greed. I completely disagree and know The Gap will prove that as they donate the 6 to 10 acres to this urgent cause of saving animals,” said Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld. “The Gap site is also critically important to the mission of rescuing animals because of the close proximity to the airport and highways. No other site even comes close.”

City Officials Talk to The Gap

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, Bredeld, and councilman Mike Karbassi participated in talks with Gap officials this week about a land donation.
“They’ve got a lot of room there, and the location is unique,” Brand said. “Everyone from The Gap has been very courteous. Now we have to answer all of their questions and concerns, which we hope to do quickly. We need to complete this in the next couple of weeks.”

portrait of Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld
“There are some who feel that companies like The Gap are all about corporate greed. I completely disagree and know The Gap will prove that as they donate the 6 to 10 acres to this urgent cause of saving animals.” — Councilman Garry Bredefeld
City officials and residents long have expressed concern about the SPCA’s high kill rate, as well as its high cost for animal-control services ($4 million). According to a state report, nearly 15,000 Fresno County dogs and cats were put to death in 2016. Only Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties had higher kill totals.
The SPCA is dissatisfied with its longtime relationship with the city, so the parting is mutual.
Karbassi explained that the goal is to open a shelter operated by Fresno Humane Animal Services with a no-kill rate of 80% to 90%.
“With it being by the airport, we would be able to easily fly animals to cities where there are waiting lists for adoptions,” Karbassi said. “This needs to be the site, and I don’t think we’re asking a whole lot of The Gap. Hopefully, they’re going to be on board.”
If you’re thinking the city and the county should team up on a new shelter, forget about it.
County officials have made it clear they want a separate facility. Construction on the county’s $8 million shelter, which also will be operated by Fresno Humane Animal Services, is expected to start next year in southwest Fresno.

The Humane Thing to Do

The leaders who approved the land giveaway and the tax-incentive package for The Gap believed those deals were in Fresno’s best interest. Primarily because The Gap would put people to work in a city with historically high unemployment. However, both agreements were controversial. Those who gave a thumbs-up did so with a degree of political risk.
In addition, in 2007, the city settled a dispute with the Federal Aviation Administration over the sale of the 200 acres by agreeing to pay $5.8 million and interest over 10 years into a fund for airport improvements. The feds said that the city should have sold the land at market value and reinvested the proceeds into the airport.
Thus the record shows that Fresno has gone to great lengths to make its partnership with The Gap successful.
With Fresno in what Bredefeld calls “a crisis with our pet population,” The Gap should do the humane thing. Donate the land for a no-kill shelter.

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email