Fresno community group sues over Cesar Chavez Blvd. renaming

1 Community Compact followed through on a promise of litigation after the speedy-yet-controversial renaming of Kings Canyon Road, Ventura Street, and California Avenue.

A Fresno community group that formed in opposition to the Fresno City Council renaming a 10-mile stretch of road in south Fresno to Cesar Chavez Blvd is taking legal action against the city. 

Last Friday the group, called 1 Community Compact, filed a lawsuit against the city over the name change, claiming various civil rights violations and that the city council acted beyond its power. 


The backstory:  In March, the city council voted 6-1 to rename stretches of Kings Canyon Rd., Ventura St. and California Ave. to Cesar Chavez Blvd, a move that quickly drew opposition from Fresno’s Black community seeking to retain southwest Fresno’s California Ave. 

  • One month later 1 Community Compact formed, comprising of Fresno’s Black community, business owners and Fresno’s Armenian community, among others. 
  • The effort to rename the three streets after Cesar Chavez dates back to 30 years ago when the city council at the time approved the change, but then-Mayor Jim Patterson vetoed it after significant public backlash. 

The big picture: 1 Community Compact accuses the city in the lawsuit of renaming the streets to honor the late founder of United Farm Workers for ideological and political reasons. 

  • The lawsuit argues that the three street names have historical value to the surrounding community and that the city must heed the historic preservation of the streets. 
  • The group also argues in the lawsuit that the city council violated the 14th Amendment, saying that the community’s right to due process was violated because property rights were destroyed without sufficient notice and opportunity to be heard. 
  • Further, the lawsuit alleges that the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by not holding meetings before the Historical Preservation Commission to determine whether the renaming would have an impact on historical sites. 
  • Another argument put forward by 1 Community Compact is that the city is forcing the businesses along the 10-mile corridor to carry the city’s ideological and political message honoring Cesar Chavez, violating their free speech. 

Go deeper: Along with the various civil rights violations claims, 1 Community Compact also argues that the $1 million allocation from the city to assist businesses with the renaming is inadequate. 

  • The lawsuit points to a July 2022 presentation from the city’s Public Works Departments regarding the name changes, which impacts 775 parcels and 3,150 addresses. The lawsuit says that the estimated cost for a small business owner to change signs is $50,000, with the cost for larger businesses expected to be much greater. 
  • “For the hundreds of businesses located on those three streets, the $1 million dollars minus the cost of materials for the signs would be significantly inadequate to reimburse those businesses with the actual costs associated with the renaming project,” the lawsuit reads.

The other side: Fresno City Councilman Miguel Arias, a co-sponsor of the street renaming, denounced the suit as being frivolous and claimed it had racist undertones

  • “[The suit] fundamentally makes a racist claim that a city street associated to a Latino surname would result in loss of property and business value. That is simply one of the most racist claims that I’ve heard put  in writing,” Arias said in a statement.
  • “It leads me to conclude that this is a frivolous lawsuit; that is simply Trump-inspired grift by anti-Latino, anti-union and Republican operatives. The city will respond appropriately in the courtroom.”
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