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Arias Fears Legal Action as Planning Commission Shoots Down NW Fresno Apartment Complex
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By Edward Smith
Published 1 month ago on
May 17, 2024

The Fresno Planning Commission denied a plan to build an 82-unit apartment complex in northwest Fresno. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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After a nearly two-hour long meeting, the Fresno Planning Commission sided with northwest Fresno residents on Wednesday in denying a builder’s plans to develop an 82-unit apartment complex at Herndon and Prospect avenues.

Even though the project matched the necessary zoning, Commission Chair Peter Vang said the plan for the three- and four-story buildings does not fit the city’s General Plan in regard to urban land use.

The plan attracted a packed house of neighbors who objected to the project.

“(The apartment) does not take into account the significant growth within the city of Fresno,” Vang said. “The fact that we’re having this four- and three-story apartment complex is going to have issues in regards to traffic that would be detrimental to the public.”

The project met all of the city’s necessary zoning after it was changed in 2015. To move forward, developers would need an appeal from either Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi, who oversees the district, or from Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer.

Karbassi has opposed the project in the past. He said he had not received a request to appeal.

A request for comment made by GV Wire to the Dyer administration was not returned.

Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias said the city would probably lose if the developer sued. It may also invite action from the state as the city is blocking housing. He said denying the project goes against Dyer’s plan to increase infill housing.

Dyer allotted $1 million in the 2024-25 budget to encourage infill development.

“As we’re trying to fund infill development, we have a planning commission that’s denying infill development,” Arias said during the mayor’s budget presentation on Thursday.

Developers want to build an 82-unit apartment complex across three- and four-story buildings. (GV Wire Composite)

City Staff Say Project Details Overcome Neighbors Concerns

Neighbors to the project filed an appeal saying the high-density would increase traffic and result in overflow of parking. They also said no other building that tall exists in the area.

The Fresno Fire Department brought up concerns that the ladder truck could have difficulty deploying to service the four-story building.

City staff countered objections, saying the project designs exceed parking minimums and that the Fire Department introduced measures that could be addressed to mitigate fire risks.

The Public Works Department determined the project didn’t generate enough trips to need a traffic study.

Architect Scott Vincent representing developer Land Value Management said during the meeting they expect 31 trips during peak morning hours and 36 trips during peak evening hours.

Although the complex has 82 units, not everyone leaves at the same time, Vincent said.

Vincent said he had heard concerns from residents about Section 8 housing. Vincent said given the high market rate rents, rental vouchers probably wouldn’t cover the entire cost.

Vincent said he lives at Champlain and Perrin avenues and within a half-mile radius of his home, there are 1,000 apartment units.

“There’s a lot of fear factor when you talk about apartments and unfortunately most of those fears are inaccurate, crime does not necessarily go up if the project is well-maintained and managed, which is what we expect here,” Vincent said.

Hearing Attracts Dozens of Protesting Residents

The Lincoln Park Apartments brought out dozens of northwest Fresno residents. Neighbors repeatedly mentioned traffic and parking issues.

Fresno Sheriff John Zanoni spoke in opposition to the project’s design.

“This project does not fit in with our neighborhood,” Zanoni said. “If I lived to the east with the elevations, I would sue because you are bringing down my property value by having three- and four-story apartment complexes looking down into my backyard.”

Vincent said they eliminated windows in certain areas to keep residents from being able to see into nearby homes.

Fresno Unified School District Board President Susan Wittrup wrote in opposition to the project saying she had heard from constituents about their concerns for the area.

She said adding a multi-unit housing complex that size would obstruct emergency responders’ ability to respond to calls, including to that of Tatarian Elementary School.

“The safety and well-being of our children must be our top priority,” Wittrup wrote. “Increased traffic congestion and a higher population density resulting from the construction of this housing complex could pose significant risks to the students and staff.”

Another resident mentioned the traffic circle on Prospect Avenue.

Vincent said developers have no control over the traffic circle or over the path to the elementary school.

A rendering of the Lincoln Park Apartments shows how developers wanted to adapt the complex to the neighborhood. (City of Fresno)

Developer Adapted Plans to Accommodate Neighbors Concerns

Vincent said developers planned the building for older citizens who want to downsize but remain in the area.

After neighbors raised concerns about density levels, they reduced the project from 88 units to 82. They also added single-family garages along the eastern boundary instead of car ports to act as buffers.

They didn’t put in windows in some parts of the building to keep privacy of nearby single-story homes. They designed the buildings to match the architecture of the area, Vincent said.

“What we have moved forward with is trying to develop with what the city has laid out and they expect on this,” Vincent said. “This zoning district not only has a maximum density it has a minimum density as well, and we fall in the middle of this.”

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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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