Fresno

Fig Garden Financial Center expansion OK’d as City, County boost collaboration

The Fresno City Council has approved a deal with Fresno County to cut the red tape on infrastructure projects of mutual benefit.

I know just the place to test these good intentions.

Let’s begin with the deal.

The Council on July 25 unanimously approved what Public Works Director Scott Mozier is calling a “Master Dual Jurisdiction Cooperative Agreement.”

The staff report from Public Works states: “It is common practice for the City of Fresno and the County of Fresno to execute joint construction projects to improve, repair or maintain street improvements that fall within both jurisdictions. Historically, both agencies have worked cooperatively to deliver these projects and have memorialized the roles and responsibilities in project specific cooperative agreements.”

The new agreement will enable both sides to “simplify the routine administrative effort on future projects.”

Anyone who has lived in Fresno long enough to recognize the infrastructure landscape knows what Mozier is talking about. We’ve got county islands within the city. We’ve got jagged city boundaries; city and county land is jumbled together on much of Fresno’s periphery. Roads of various sizes run through it all. Life always moves on, therefore the challenges faced by city and county decision makers never cease.

That brings us to a complimentary item tackled by the Council on July 25. In a nutshell, the Council gave a unanimous thumbs up to the Assemi Group’s plan to build a fourth multi-story office building at Fig Garden Financial Center.

The items before the Council included a mitigated negative declaration, a plan amendment application and a rezone application. The Assemi Group has more City Hall hurdles to jump through before ground is broken. But the July 25 vote with no word of complaint from the Council and Administration, and barely a peep of protest from the neighborhood around the project, suggests the new building is well on its way to becoming a reality.

My wife and I have lived in the neighborhood for 25 years. We support the project.

I have written about the project a number of times for The Sun. A key element is the “vacating” or closing of a portion of San Jose and Colonial avenues on the east side of the Financial Center. This would enable construction of the new office building, but would eliminate an unfettered path for vehicles traveling from Palm Avenue to Maroa Avenue or vice versa.

The project has many supporters in my neighborhood. This was demonstrated yet again at the July 25 hearing. Many neighborhood residents, Mary and I among them, view the closing of the Palm-to-Maroa shortcut to speeding motorists as a blessing.

The Assemi Group has promised a project that does no harm to the neighborhood’s “walkability.” It’s a wonderful neighborhood. You never want to count your chickens too early when dealing with bureaucracy. But it appears City Hall and one Fresno’s biggest developers are well on their way to successfully implementing the 2035 General Plan’s twin goals of infill development and neighborhood stability.

There’s just one remaining planning challenge, as I see it. San Jose when the project is finished will end in a cul-de-sac on the east edge of the Financial Center. San Jose from this cul-de-sac to Maroa could someday be subject to more high-density residential infill development than it’s already getting. San Jose from this cul-de-sac to Maroa travels through portions of both the city and the county.

Here’s hoping Director Mozier’s “Master Dual Jurisdiction Cooperative Agreement” delivers at some point in the near future a San Jose that is friendly to pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, property owners and strolling retired newspaper reporters struggling to keep rollator and a headstrong pug separated.

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