After 16 Months, Controversial Southwest Fresno Rezone Advances
On a 3-2 vote, the Fresno Planning Commission has finally approved a controversial rezoning in southwest Fresno.
“To go with this plan is wrong. We have been dumped on all the years I’ve been in Fresno.” — southwest Fresno activist Mary Curry
The commission’s action Wednesday night came 16 months after the rezone was introduced. The item now heads to the Fresno City Council for a final decision.
The city rezoned nearly 93 acres from light industrial to mixed-use in 2017 as part of the Southwest Fresno Specific Plan. But business owners in the area wanted to zone the land back to its original use.
John Kinsey, an attorney for the light-industry land owners, told the commission there were no plans to expand.
“It’s all built out,” Kinsey said of the area, which contains 15 parcels. Kinsey said businesses have invested $150 million there.
Kinsey said the rezone threatened the ability to recruit new tenants and obtain financing. There have been no vacancies since 2017. If there were, the grandfathered-in zoning as light industrial could expire in 90 days, he explained.
Businesses in the development include IFCO Systems, which washes agricultural bins; Plastic Industries, Inc., a plastic fabrication company; and GlaxoSmithKline, which has a pharmaceutical preparations plant.
Several in Community Oppose
Not all area developers were on board with the rezone. Sylvesta Hall, with Blue Ocean Development America, opposed reverting to the former zoning.
“None of them look like the folks in southwest Fresno,” Hall said of consultants who spoke at the meeting.
Several other people spoke in favor of keeping the zoning as is, saying it protects the neighborhood residents and promotes racial justice.
Mary Curry, the elder stateswoman of southwest Fresno issues, opposed any changes.
“To go with this plan is wrong,” Curry said. “We have been dumped on all the years I’ve been in Fresno.”
3-2 Vote to Approve
Following two hours of testimony, the commission voted down a motion to deny the application for the rezoning on a 3-2 vote.
A motion to recommend the rezoning passed by the same margin. In both votes, commissioners Haley Wagner, Monica Diaz, and Brad Hardie were in the majority; Peter Vang and Robert Fuentes were in the minority.
Commissioner Kathy Bray recused herself because of a conflict of interest, and commissioner Pastor DJ Criner was not present.
This was the first meeting back for Fuentes and Bray. Both resigned from the commission in 2021 to explore elected offices, although neither ultimately ran.
Mayor Jerry Dyer renominated Fuentes and Bray, and the Fresno City Council confirmed them last week.