The Fresno City Council last week delayed a vote on a $120 million industrial park for a second time — this time because of a public records request.
The most recent delay for Scannell Properties’ proposed development at Marks Avenue near Highway 180 comes after labor groups requested records from the city of Fresno relating to the project, said Nick Audino, senior vice president with Newmark Pearson Commercial, who represents the developers.
Multiple sources with direct knowledge about the situation said the Fresno City Attorney’s office recommended that the council delay the hearing until Feb. 22. The City Attorney’s office did not respond to a request for more information from GV Wire.
Labor groups are actively opposing the project, threatening legal action if the project is approved. Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias appealed the project in support of those labor groups.
“We’ve been at this for almost three and a half years,” Audino said of the latest delay. “We’re to the finish line, and if it’s another month, it’s another month.”
The project came under fire from labor groups after developers did not sign a project labor agreement, which mandates a level of union jobs for the project.
Multiple sources said they had never heard of a public records request holding up a project. Another said it is rare.
A records request filed with the city from San Francisco-based law firm Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo was dated Jan. 8.
Attorney John Kinsey with Wanger Jones Helsley, who represents Scannell, said in a letter to councilmembers that getting records out to the public is not a condition that must be met before approving a project.
“If it were, a project opponent could forestall municipal action on a development project by simply filing successive PRA requests,” Kinsey said in the letter.
Business advocacy groups say getting the project approved would bring thousands of jobs to Fresno during the construction phase and when businesses move into the buildings.
“We are hopeful that the Scannell project will be approved by the City Council soon,” said Ethan Smith, chairperson of INVEST Fresno, a pro-business organization. “We support the project because it will help address the severe lack of modern, efficient warehouses to accommodate growth of existing businesses.”
Land Zoned for Heavy Industrial, Little Residential Development Nearby
The four-building, $100 million industrial complex proposed by Indianapolis-based Scannell Properties would be built on Marks Avenue, just north of Highway 180. The city designated the land for heavy industrial.
Scannell is building the project on speculation, meaning it doesn’t have tenants lined up. However, demand for industrial space is strong because of the scarcity of available space for manufacturers and logistics companies in Fresno.
“We’re talking about $120 million of speculative development and investment in Fresno,” Audino said. “And so that’s going to give us a chance to attract new businesses, you know, quality companies, both local and national to Fresno to create, you know 1,500 or 2,000 jobs as a result.”
These projects are planned out years in advance. Audino said if it is approved, it would be the only significant project to be built in the city over the next several years.
The council had scheduled the first hearing to approve Scannell Properties’ project on Jan. 11. The project was then re-scheduled for Feb. 1.
Audino said without tenants lined up, agreeing to a PLA increases construction costs.
“Given the fact that Scannell has not identified any tenants to go in that space and really has no way of absorbing the increased cost at this point, it’s very difficult to agree to a project labor agreement,” Audino said.
Labor, Environmental Groups Objected to Company’s EIR
The city undertook an environmental impact report for the project.
The EIR found little significant impact on water quality, soil quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and other factors. And, the analysis found no environmental factors that couldn’t be mitigated by the developers.
Being close to Highway 180, truck routes to and from the site avoid neighborhoods, said project adviser Alex Tavlian of Park West Associates in a previous interview with GV Wire.
Arias appealed the EIR after he said residents spoke up about increased pollution.
“Residents have voiced their concerns about the increase in pollution that the proposed projects’ heavy industrial uses and increase in traffic will bring to the area,” Arias said in a letter to Jennifer Clark, director of the Fresno Planning and Development Department.
In 2021, the council required all projects over $1 million undertaken by the city to have a PLA. However, the city did not agree to provide incentives to build under the PLAs.
Attorney Outlines the Benefits of a PLA
Attorney Kevin Carmichael with law firm Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo said that without a commitment to hire workers from union shops, the project does not comply with the Fresno General Plan’s workforce policies.
The 2014 document outlining Fresno’s goals to increase opportunities for high-paying, skilled labor. Carmichael said PLA agreements such as registered apprenticeship programs help diversify the workforce by bringing underrepresented minorities and women into the trade.
“In order to comply with the City of Fresno’s General Plan workforce policies, every project should commit to local hire, participation in apprenticeship programs and hiring a skilled and trained workforce to enable more of the City’s disadvantaged workers to enter the pathway to a long-term, family-supporting career in construction,” Carmichael said in a Dec. 29, 2023 letter to the city.