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Mayor Dyer's Landmark SW Starbucks Site Up in the Air After Appeal
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By Edward Smith
Published 4 months ago on
January 3, 2024

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Update: 9;30 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 4 

The Fresno Planning Commission rejected an appeal of the Starbucks’ location on a 6-0 vote on Wednesday night, allowing it to go forward at Church Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Original Story 

In January, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer announced the first Starbucks for southwest Fresno as part of a landmark housing and commercial development.

The Starbucks location also is supposed to be the company’s first “community store” in Fresno featuring a larger footprint that invites people to stay longer and mingle.

At the time, Dyer said other parts of Fresno take retailers such as Starbucks for granted, but that landing one in southwest Fresno represented a victory for residents there.

But now some neighborhood advocates say the planned location is too near a middle school and traffic from the drive-thru would endanger children. The Fresno Planning Commission will hear the appeal on Wednesday.

“That is just not the right place to put it,” said Debbie Darden, chair of the Golden Westside Planning Committee. “Our concern is safety for our residents and for our children.”

The site, at Church Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, would be across the street from Gaston Middle School and adjacent to the new West Fresno Center of Fresno City College. Dyer said the location was designed with the community in mind and to offer job opportunities to those in the neighborhood.

The site for the Starbucks would be across the street from Gaston Middle School. (City of Fresno)

Dyer said he respects the appeal process, but he wants to see the Starbucks built.

“I have worked closely with executives from their Corporate Office for the past two years to ensure the Southwest community will have a Starbucks they can be proud of,” Dyer said in an email. “This will be their largest community store in Fresno and will provide a great venue for all ages, especially residents of Southwest Fresno and those attending our West Fresno Community College campus.”

Shopping Center Has Been Years in the Making

Fresno City Councilman Miguel Arias penned the appeal to the Planning Commission, saying residents had reached out to him, objecting to the project’s location.

“Residents are concerned about the increase in traffic from the proposed parking lot that would pose a danger to parents and children crossing the street to school,” Arias wrote in the letter.

The project proposal went before the District 3 Project Review Committee in June and was unanimously approved. Committee members discussed the drive-thru at that time.

But Darden, who sits on the review committee, said she thought the project was going to Jensen Avenue when she voted for it. She said it was an error on her part when she voted for it.

“Had I known that, I would have presented it a different way,” Darden said.

Arias also said residents were told commercial and retail would be developed along Jensen Avenue.

However, public notices for community meetings in 2018 filed with the city of Fresno specifically outline retail going along the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Church Avenue.

The meeting agenda even cites a discussion around parking near Gaston Middle School. Meeting planners said one of the advantages of the site is the closeness to the college.

The Starbucks would anchor the shopping center with a 168-car parking lot. The location would be part of the West Creek Village development surrounding the West Fresno Center, a satellite campus of Fresno City College.

The West Creek project, approved by Fresno City Council in 2018, would add housing and commercial projects on 116 acres. Multiple community meetings done ahead of the project’s approval discussed the commercial corner, according to documents filed with the city.

Starbucks’ Traffic Mitigation Measures

Sylvesta Hall, one of the developers, said in a letter to the Fresno Planning and Development Department that community leaders, students, and school faculty have said they want a Starbucks in the area.

A traffic study took into account not just the three nearby schools but was broadened to include 10 surrounding schools, and hundreds of houses and apartments.

Mitigation measures for traffic dangers include reduced parking pedestrian ramps, pedestrian-designated walkways, wall barriers, and signage. Streets would also be widened and sidewalks, curbs, and gutters would be added to an area historically lacking those features, Hall said.

Hall said in the letter that the appellants have been part of the process over the past five years.

“Their claims in the permit appeal are totally illegitimate, unfounded, ill-intended,” Hall said.

“It is our hope that our councilman will use this vast amount of information to withdraw the permit appeal and fully support our project area,” Hall said.

Starbucks Is to Be Part of Grand Vision for Southwest Fresno

Community leaders have long called for more retail options for southwest residents. The Southwest Fresno Specific Plan, approved in 2017, rezoned large parcels of land from industrial uses toward retail and residential.

Previous Mayor Lee Brand said when West Village was approved, it would be “the single biggest economic development in the city’s history for this side of town.”

Darden said she is not opposed to the Starbucks, just the location.

Considering the amount of vacant land in the area, Darden said there is plenty of land available that does not interfere with traffic.

“There’s a lot of land that’s vacant here that’s owned by people that don’t even live in our community, who have sat and held onto that land for decades, where these kinds of businesses and so forth, development, could come in,” Darden said.

The map includes neighborhood retail at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Church Avenue. Hall, as a member of 2500 MLK, LLC — the development company — and Darden were among the members of the specific plan commmittee.

“2500 MLK, LLC has sacrificed over 12 years of time, talent, and treasure to realize the goals and objectives” of the Fresno General Plan, the Southwest Fresno Specific Plan, and the Transformative Climate Communities project, Hall said.

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Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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