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Fed-up South Fresno Residents Sue City Over Industrial Impacts

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South Fresno neighbors are suing the city, alleging that City Hall's environmental reports are inadequate.(GV Wire File)
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Neighborhoods in south Fresno near distribution centers and industrial sites have said enough is enough.

They are suing the city to stop more negative environmental impacts such as air pollution in their communities.

A group named South Fresno Community Alliance filed a lawsuit against the city on Friday. The lawsuit says the city’s environmental studies fall short of what’s required by law.

“(The city’s environmental reports) failed to adequately analyze the impacts of anticipated industrial facility development under the General Plan on residents and their neighborhoods, and likewise failed to adequately mitigate and to discuss feasible alternatives that would avoid and reduce these impacts,” the lawsuit says.

Neighborhoods Burdened by Pollution

Neighbors near fulfillment centers for Amazon and Ulta, as well as a landfill, have long said that their voices were not being heard.

“South Fresno neighborhoods, in particular, are heavily impacted by emissions from existing industrial uses, warehouse distribution centers, landfills, freeway traffic, fueling stations, and the use of local roadways for heavy diesel truck traffic. These neighborhoods rank among the most pollution-burdened in the state,” the lawsuit says.

The Fresno City Council approved the environmental documents, 7-0, at its Sept. 30 meeting. An item mentioning potential litigation was discussed during multiple closed sessions of the city council.

CalEnviroScreen 4.0 maps California communities that have a high pollution burden. You can access it at this link.

School: We Were Never Notified

Terry Hirschfield, the superintendent of the Orange Center School District, says she was never notified by the city about the construction of the Ulta or Amazon warehouses. The district consists of a single elementary school near Cherry and Central avenues.

“I was not consulted about how these two major facilities would impact my staff and students before the projects were constructed,” Hirschfield said in the lawsuit.

She alleged that the construction caused noise and other disruptions, including a helicopter flyby.

“The helicopter forced me and my staff to send the students inside because we did not know whether it was safe for them to be outside. No one notified us that the developer was planning to fly a helicopter over the School in such a disruptive manner,” Hirschfield said.

The increased vehicle traffic has made it dangerous for students to walk to school, Hirschfield said.

City Failed to Do Proper Analysis: Lawsuit

Specifically, the lawsuit states the city failed to conduct a proper Program Environmental Impact Report, a document that analyzes the impact of things like air quality, traffic, and toxins on the neighborhood because of new development. The city’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan was too vague on how to reduce dirty air, the lawsuit alleged.

The PEIR provides a framework for the city to approve more industrial uses. The lawsuit said the PEIR is insufficient and asked the court to overturn it.

The Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability partnered with the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic at the San Francisco-based Golden Gate University School of Law to file the lawsuit. They were joined by another San Francisco law firm, Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP.

The attorneys also sent a copy of the lawsuit to California Attorney General Rob Bonta.

The lawsuit asks the court to prevent the city from approving any more projects in the area using a PEIR. It also seeks reimbursement of attorney and court fees.

No court date has been set.

Read the Lawsuit

David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email