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Controversial Industrial Project Approved With Fresno at 'Economic Crossroads'
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By Edward Smith
Published 2 months ago on
February 22, 2024

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The city council approves a proposal to build 1 million square feet of industrial-use buildings in southwest Fresno.

Labor organizers opposed the project because of the absence of a union pact.

Environmental impacts of the project far less than thresholds requiring mitigation: analyst.


The Fresno City Council on Thursday approved an industrial project that advocates say will bring thousands of good-paying jobs to the region.

“I believe this is our opportunity as a city to prove otherwise, that we are business-friendly, and we welcome responsible business in our community.” — Mayor Jerry Dyer

The proposal from Scannell Properties to build 1 million square feet of industrial-use buildings in southwest Fresno came under fire after Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias appealed the project for its purported environmental impact and the developer’s refusal to agree to use union labor.

The project proposal had previously received a green light from the Fresno Planning Commission. Project applicants had multiple hearings delayed.

Councilmembers disagreed with Arias’ objections, saying the builder had taken measures above and beyond those required to mitigate environmental impacts. They also said the project would generate good-paying, diverse jobs.

The council approved the project 5-2, with Arias and Luis Chavez opposed.

Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer spoke in support of the project, saying Fresno was headed approaching “lean years” with potential business closures and job losses due to economic conditions nationwide. It said it was important to diversify Fresno’s economy.

“We, unfortunately, do have a reputation in Fresno for not being business-friendly. Some of that being deserved, some of it undeserved, but it has caused development to move into nearby jurisdictions,” Dyer said. “I believe this is our opportunity as a city to prove otherwise, that we are business-friendly, and we welcome responsible business in our community.”

Project Could Bring 1,000 Construction Jobs, 1,000 Industrial Jobs

Scannell proposes four buildings on the site near Marks Avenue and Highway 180. Already zoned for heavy industrial use, the project also meets conditions laid out in Fresno’s General Plan, said attorney John Kinsey, who represents Scannell.

The company paid to have an environmental impact report done for the proposal, something that took three years, Kinsey said.

Paul Starn, project manager with Scannell, said the project would bring an “incredible share of good-paying jobs.”

The project proposal estimates 1,000 construction jobs and 1,000 industrial jobs, though, without a tenant yet secured, those numbers could change.

“The city of Fresno is at an economic crossroads and our project is at the intersection,” Starn said.

Opponents Say Vehicle Trip, Air Quality Analysis Inadequate

Arias said there was no real commitment by the builder to mitigate environmental impacts.

Kevin Carmichael, an attorney with Sacramento-based Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, said the environmental documents don’t adequately look at how many vehicle trips would be made at the warehouse.

Carmichael’s group, Fresno Residents for Responsible Development, opposed the project during the EIR.

The document doesn’t adequately look at how construction would stir up mold spores that cause Valley Fever, Carmichael said.

Arias made a motion to decertify the environmental document but did not receive a second.

The Scannell Properties project at North Marks and West Nielsen avenues is less than a mile from Highway 180. (City of Fresno)

While Below Threshold, Builders Still Using Environmental Mitigation Measures

Kinsey, the attorney representing Scannell Properties, said the environmental document looked at all of the concerns.

Being a speculative project, a tenant or its use hasn’t been determined yet.

Kinsey said the environmental study looked at a broad range of how many truck trips would be made by a range of “reasonably foreseeable tenants” for the spec building.

Cara Cunningham, associate with LSA Associates, the consultant contracted to conduct the study, said the project’s pollution impacts would be far below thresholds requiring mitigation.

The threshold for PM10 and PM2.5 — major pollutants — is 15 tons per year. The project would generate less than 2.3 tons per year for PM10 and less than .7 tons per year for PM2.5.

Other predicted emissions for organic gases, nitrous oxide, and carbon monoxide were less than half of their thresholds.

Cunningham said the project would generate 1,920 average daily trips.

Being below thresholds, environmental mitigation measures were not required, Cunningham said. But, being in an area designated by CalEnviroScreen as a heavily polluted area, the builder is using the cleanest equipment available.

They are also installing electric vehicle chargers to accommodate coming legislation banning combustion engines, Cunningham said.

Scannell Properties proposes nearly 1 million square feet of industrial development in southwest Fresno. (City of Fresno)

Developer Says Project Can’t Afford a Union Labor Pact

While objections to the project were made on an environmental basis, discussions turned often to union labor.

Several construction contractors who spoke during the public comment period said project opponents were abusing California’s environmental process. They called the tactics “extortion.”

Labor organizer John Henry Lopez said that while the project provides warehouse jobs, they want good jobs “at the front end.”

Arias asked Starn if the builder was opposed to union labor.

Starn said they have used project labor agreements before but that this project couldn’t afford one.

“With regards to this project, we cannot financially afford a project labor agreement,” Starn said. However, Scannell continues to have talks with union organizations about the project, Starn added.

Lopez said he appreciated the communication between his organization and Scannell.

“We’re not trying to say there wasn’t any communication, but we also want to say we’re here to make sure that these jobs are done not only safely but also in a manner that would help support our community,” Lopez said.

Several construction contractors who spoke during the public comment period said project opponents were abusing California’s environmental process. They called the tactics “extortion.”

“I am here today to deny this insincere appeal of Scannell Properties’ project,” said Rex Hime with the Western Electrical Contractors Association. “It has been made extremely clear this is not about the environment, but instead about a business that wants to make an investment of $100 million into our own city now being extorted into a costly project labor agreement.”

Councilmember Mike Karbassi, who made the motion to approve the application, made a similar statement, saying he felt California’s environmental process had been abused.

Arias objected to the fact that none of the applicants lives in south Fresno, saying they don’t suffer from low life expectancy and heavy pollution.

At the end of his time, he mocked those who supported the project as well as people who spoke out against using union labor.

“Thank you to the applicant and all those from non-Fresno and (non-) south Fresno who support this project and to the anti-labor proponents who gave their two cents in this matter,” Arias 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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