Fresno lawmakers press for plan to keep southwest Fresno warehouses open

Seven months of negotiations between longtime landowners, residents, and Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer have left thousands of jobs hanging in the balance.

Seven months of negotiations between industrial landowners, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, and a local pastor to preserve thousands of jobs and reduce pollution impacts have broken down, putting a massive jobs hub in the city in jeopardy.

Thursday, the Fresno City Council announced that it would pursue a simpler solution on its own – even if it might upset the otherwise entrenched parties or the Dyer administration.


The backstory: Last October, Fresno lawmakers approved a compromise agreement for rezoning roughly one-third of a 92-acre light industrial space between E. Vine Ave. to the North, Highway 41 to the east, S. Elm. Ave to the west and E. Chester and E. Samson Ave. to the south. 

  • The land is occupied by a variety of businesses who have their logistics warehouses on site, and its zoning switched from light industrial to neighborhood mixed use zoning in 2017 when the Southwest Fresno Specific Plan was approved. 
  • Businesses currently occupying the properties were grandfathered in to continue operations – known as legal nonconforming use – yet any new prospective tenants were scared off of moving in given the new zoning rules. 
  • The council had changed the zoning from E. Annadale Ave. to E. Vine Ave. from neighborhood mixed use to light industrial use. The council also directed city staff to return within 90 days to present a citywide zoning overlay district – a compromise that would allow some zoning changes for property owners while keeping certain environmental protections sought out by the surrounding community. 

The big picture: While the Dyer administration was told to bring the overlay plan to the council within 90 days, yet such a plan has not been presented to the entire council more than seven months later. 

  • The council held a workshop on Thursday to discuss why Dyer’s team has not resolved the issue. 
  • Planning and Development Director Jennifer Clark told the council that there has been no compromise proposed that was satisfactory to the landowners and community leaders – led by Pastor B.T. Lewis – in the meetings that they held to discuss the potential overlay. 
  • Clark also said the administration is not planning to bring a proposal forward at this time and has not made any determination on supporting a rezone. 

What we’re watching: Without a plan in place, Councilman Miguel Arias directed City Attorney Andrew Janz to explore what options are available to the city, including rezoning the property back to light industrial use. 

What they’re saying: “Our goal is to honor the Southwest Specific Plan, which is to reduce the environmental impact and to improve the health conditions of the whole community,” Arias said. “And when we have existing businesses that cannot borrow funds to make the transition to electrification, we’re not meeting the goal of reducing pollution and the environmental impacts of that area.” 

  • Councilman Luis Chavez added, “I think this has been one of those hot potatoes, if I’m being frank and honest, that nobody wants to touch. I think it’s time that we addressed it, and we addressed it in a way that can be productive for all sides.” 
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