Fresno

Fig Garden Financial Center expansion decision postponed

I called Granville Homes Vice President Jeff Roberts on Thursday. I wanted to know what happened at Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting.

As I reported earlier, the commissioners were to hold a hearing on plans to expand the Assemi-owned Fig Garden Financial Center in North Fresno from three office towers to four. City Hall would have to “vacate” small portions of two city streets to accommodate the new tower. This would change traffic patterns in the neighborhood (which happens to be where I live).

I like the Assemi idea.

“Where were you?” Roberts asked before I could ask my question.

I thought: “Oh, no – dramatic meeting and I missed it.”

Just the opposite.

“It was continued,” Roberts said. “For two weeks.”

So, the big hearing will occur on June 19.

The good folks in my neighborhood aren’t of a single mind on the Assemi project. That’s the American way.

If I understood Roberts correctly, one of my neighbors wants the Assemis to do an environmental impact report before the project moves too far through the regulatory pipeline.

EIRs take time and money.

EIRs can also identify major impacts to the neighborhood before a project gets going, thus giving everyone time to come up with wise mitigating measures.

But you don’t just pull successful mitigating measures off a store shelf. They require hard work to find and implement. Rarely do they make everyone happy. One person’s remedy is another person’s poison.

I later learned that my friend Jodi Fitzpatrick (she lives a handful of houses from me) had submitted a letter to the Planning Commission on June 4. Jodi is an experienced developer. She asked that the Assemi project be returned to the Development and Resource Management Department until a full EIR is done.

“I’m writing to express my enthusiasm for (the) project in general,” Fitzpatrick wrote. “With some modifications, it could be a harmonious addition to the existing center and neighborhood. The Assemi Group, Inc. has done a respectable job concerning outreach to the community.”

But she has some significant concerns. These include emergency vehicle access, pedestrian safety and traffic flow. Thus her view that a full EIR is necessary before anything comes to the commission.

Without getting too far into the details, our neighborhood is an amazing hodge-podge of government jurisdictions, street patterns, housing types and diversity of human beings. Jodi is fully aware of this complexity. It’s clear from her letter that she’s concerned City Hall doesn’t get it – at least not yet.

As I’ve written before, infill development in my neighborhood is a textbook example of the irreconcilable tensions in City Hall’s 2035 general plan: Stable neighborhoods vs. dynamic neighborhoods. Redevelopment in the form of much higher residential density is already coming to my neighborhood. More is on the way. This is the future in much of Fresno.

I used to be able to take my dog on our usual morning walk and not encounter too much of the bedlam of intensified urban land use. Not anymore. There’s a stretch of one street on our walk that has been so narrowed by construction and east-west vehicular traffic that on occasion I carry my dog past the most dangerous choke points.

That’s a successful mitigation measure. It’s just not one you’ll find in a typical general plan or EIR.

George Hostetter
George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.