Thursday, the Fresno City Council approved $2.7 million to pay for water infrastructure in a new affordable housing development at Fancher Creek in southwest Fresno.
While it was unanimously supported by the council, the issue managed to provide an early preview at how the newly-jolted race for the Fresno County Board of Supervisors District 3 seat will affect City Hall.
The backstory: The Fresno-based Lance-Kashian Company, developer of River Park, is building 120 units of affordable housing as part of the mixed-use Fancher Creek Town Center development in southeast Fresno.
- Kashian has had a disagreement with Bakman Water Company – a small private water company that serves parts of southeast Fresno – over paying for the development’s water infrastructure. The California Public Utilities Commission ruled last month that Kashian is responsible for the cost, leading him to approach the city council for financial support.
- In 2009, Fresno lawmakers passed the Better Business Act, which prohibits the city from loaning or giving over $1 million without first determining that the investment is a sound one, owing to pre-Recession financial flops including Chukchansi Park and the shuttered Fresno Metropolitan Museum.
Driving the news: Councilman Luis Chavez, who represents the area, brought forward the resolution to grant $2.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to help along the affordable housing project.
- Chavez announced earlier in the year that he will challenge incumbent Sal Quintero for the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. Fellow councilman Miguel Arias also entered the race on Tuesday.
The big picture: The council unanimously approved the payment and in the process amended the Better Business Act to provide an exemption for projects that have a 100 percent affordable housing component.
State of play: Arias took issue with the city offering a bailout to the development for basic infrastructure needs, fearing that other developers will come to City Hall asking for the same deal.
- Chavez noted that the project will pay for itself with a projection of over $60 million in a 10-year period from the retail component.
What they’re saying: Despite the unanimous vote, Arias provided a voice of opposition to Chavez, saying that he expects this type of vote is the last straw for him regarding this development.
- “Every housing project is worthy of city support, but there is a line that we should not cross, which is [to] allow for irresponsible development, poor planning and then a last minute bailout in order for people to not be out in the streets,” Arias said.
- Chavez responded by saying that he is confident that such issues will not arise with the project in the future.