A Lot of Issues are at Play
Two other issues currently simmering at City Hall add context to our story.
City officials are in the early stages of crafting a Southwest Fresno Specific Plan. Think of it more as a long overdue growth blueprint for traditional West Fresno. The specific plan’s footprint covers five square miles. Many of the long-established residential neighborhoods of West Fresno aren’t part of those 3,200 acres. But plan’s charge is to spur the transformation of this part of historic Fresno, too.
West Fresno is on the west side of Highway 99. Chinatown is next to West Fresno, on the east side of 99.
You get the picture – a desolate and ignored Chinatown is located in a high-profile spot between a rejuvenating Downtown and a West Fresno on the path to a renaissance.
Then there is the $70 million in state Cap & Trade money headed Fresno’s way.
The spending guidelines are still being debated. All of the money (including any matching funds from the city) will go toward popular but hazy public needs such as combating pollution, improving people’s health and expanding economic opportunity.
But where to spend the money? The state will require that much of the $70 million go into projects near the bullet train depot. City officials are already dreaming about the blessings of multi-million-dollar subsidies to private-sector development projects along Fulton Corridor and throughout the South Stadium area. In other words, Downtown.
At the same time, powerful community activists are lobbying here and in Sacramento to substantially liberalize the money’s spending rules. West Fresno neighborhoods relatively far from the bullet train depot have immense infrastructure and social needs. The activists don’t want a narrow niche of Downtown hogging all that Cap & Trade dough.
Chinatown? Chinatown doesn’t appear to be a high priority for that $70 million, and the area’s business owners know it.
“We’re in between,” said Paul Pearson, owner of Chef Paul’s Café on F Street, in the heart of Chinatown. “We’re the stepchildren.”
Adds Kathy Omachi, for many years the heart of soul of Chinatown Revitalization Inc.: “They (city officials) would prefer us not to be around. They have applied to Chinatown what I call the three D’s. They disregard what we bring up. Then they dismiss us. Then they just want to disintegrate (us). Those three D’s, they’re actually happening. You can see what’s going on.”