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Rejected 4-Story NW Fresno Apartment Complex Will Get a Second Chance
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By Edward Smith
Published 4 weeks ago on
May 30, 2024

Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer and Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi appealed a decision from the Fresno Planning Commission to deny an 82-unit apartment complex in NW Fresno. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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Days after an apartment builder asked Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer to have the city council examine his project, Dyer and the area’s councilmember decided to give the 4-story project in northwest Fresno a second look.

“Doing nothing would create delays in housing production and potential litigation, all with a high likelihood the courts would eventually uphold the development as proposed in the long run, costing the city millions.” — Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer

Dyer said he and Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi did not “have a real choice” in deciding to appeal the Fresno Planning Commission’s rejection of the 82-unit Lincoln Park Apartments at Herndon and Prospect Avenues on May 15, according to a news release from the city.

“Deciding to appeal the Planning Commission’s findings was a decision I wrestled with greatly,” Dyer said. “I tried to view the situation as if I lived in the neighborhood, while also recognizing my mayoral responsibility to look out for the financial interest of the entire city. In the end, Council Vice President Karbassi and I did not have a real choice in this matter based on California law under the Housing Accountability Act.”

LandValue Management wants to build an 82-unit apartment complex with three- and four-story buildings. (GV Wire Composite)

Not Appealing ‘Would Have Been Worse for the Neighborhood’

Karbassi said the developer, James Huelskamp of LandValue Management, has not engaged with neighbors on the project. Opponents complained about the project’s density, saying it would impact traffic and parking in the area.

“Based on the evidence at the recent public hearing, this developer has been unwilling to engage with residents of the Tatarian Elementary community and incorporate their requests,” Karbassi said.

Under then-Mayor Ashley Swearengin, the 2014 General Plan changed the zoning of the land from neighborhood shopping center to multi-family residential.

At the planning commission meeting, opponents gave almost two hours of comments against the project.

City staff and the project’s lead architect, Scott Vincent, said the project met code, which changed in the 2014 General Plan, allowing for an apartment complex with that density.

Under then-Mayor Ashley Swearengin, the 2014 General Plan changed the zoning of the land from neighborhood shopping center to multi-family residential.

Vincent said they designed the complex to match the area’s aesthetic. The project lands in the middle range of allowable units per acre and it surpasses minimum parking standards.

California law requires a demonstrable harm in denying a housing project that meets zoning criteria.

After consulting with attorneys, Dyer said the rules had been made clear to him and Karbassi.

“To not appeal, in our opinion, would have been worse for the neighborhood based on the options available to the developer,” Dyer said. “I am committed to facilitating a meeting between the developer and the residents.”

A rendering shows how the Lincoln Park Apartments at Herndon and Prospect avenues could look. (City of Fresno)

City Attorney’s Office: Planning Commission Decision Falls Short of Legal Minimums

Not appealing the project could expose the city to significant legal liability, according to Dyer and Karbassi’s appeal letter to the Planning and Development Department. The city attorney’s office said the decision by the planning commission falls short of the required criteria to deny the project.

“As a result, the City has been placed at substantial risk of litigation that will likely result in substantial fines and the courts approving the project as it stands proposed today by the developer,” the appeal letter stated.

A fine from the state could cost the city $820,000 to $4.1 million.

The project’s 82 units falls below the maximum 111 allowed on the lot. All units are market rate. Dyer’s appeal letter stated that if the developer added affordable units, California law could allow an additional 40 units.

“Doing nothing would create delays in housing production and potential litigation, all with a high likelihood the courts would eventually uphold the development as proposed in the long run, costing the city millions, and ultimately putting this decision in the hands of the court system versus the city council,” the letter stated.

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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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