Waiting for developers to build sidewalks in Fresno has put generations of schoolkids in jeopardy, and three Fresno City Council members say it’s time to end the wait.

Councilmembers Mike Karbassi, Luis Chavez, and Paul Capriogio are introducing the “Safer Sidewalks to Schools Program” at next Thursday’s council meeting. If the ordinance passes, city staff will be directed to do the following:

  • Identify neighborhoods where there are no sidewalks along routes to neighborhood schools and install them.
  • Seek reimbursement from property owners for the cost of the sidewalk, when the property is eventually developed and to the extent legally possible.
  • Provide within 90 days a report detailing how properties will be selected and prioritized under the program, how the work will be paid for, and a timeline for completing the sidewalks.

Karbassi said he saw firsthand and also heard from residents about the lack of sidewalks and safe routes to schools while walking in northwest Fresno last year during his campaign for the District 2 seat on the council.

Sidewalks Now Wait for Developers

The city’s current policy requires developers be responsible for installing sidewalks once they develop a property, but in the meantime children are forced to walk on dirt paths, sometimes through tall grass, to stay safe and out of the street, he said.

Photo of Mike Karbassi

“The advantage is, they’re going to pay for the price of concrete today, not 10 years from now. So they’re going to save money. … And these kids will have had their sidewalks for 10 years.” — Fresno City Councilman Mike Karbassi

“Kids deserve better than that,” he said.

Karabassi said the program should target routes to school for elementary students before middle or high school students.

How To Pay For It

The method of funding could be multifold. The city could look for grants or partnerships, and also could set aside a pot of money designated for sidewalk installation, Karbassi said. A sidewalk’s cost would be repaid by developers once the property is developed.

“When that property is developed, the developer will still pay for it (the sidewalk),” he said. “The advantage is, they’re going to pay for the price of concrete today, not 10 years from now. So they’re going to save money. … And these kids will have had their sidewalks for 10 years.

“And when they (developers) pay those fees, the money goes back into the general fund.”

What About County Islands?

Karbassi acknowledged that there are unincorporated county islands in his district and other parts of the city that also lack sidewalks, and he plans to bring up the issue when he meets with Supervisor Steve Brandau later this month.

“But if it’s one of those cases where there’s a vacant lot, and it hasn’t been developed, and it gets developed, and we can be reimbursed, that’s where I think we can justify spending public dollars in the county areas, because that money’s going to come back to the city,” he said.

Chavez and Caprioglio could not be reached for comment Friday.

Sidewalks Sought for Two Fresno Unified Neighborhoods

In Fresno Unified, sidewalks are missing in the neighborhoods of two elementary schools, Sunset in southwest Fresno and Addams in central Fresno, district spokeswoman Vanessa Ramirez said.

“The district has been working with the City of Fresno to provide safe routes for these sites so our students are safe when they walk to/from school since at least 2017,” she said Tuesday.

Ramirez said parents from Sunnyside appeared at board meetings last year to air their concerns about unsafe streets, including speeding cars and the hazards for youngsters crossing the street.

The parents told trustees that the district promised a parking lot for the school when its enrollment grew so students could be picked up and dropped off off-street, but even though enrollments have grown there is still no parking lot.

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