Fresno lawmakers OK major $100m, 1,000-job warehouse project

Fresno lawmakers advanced the development of a major jobs hub in southwest Fresno, denying appeals by environmental advocates.

A proposed $100 million warehouse project for southwest Fresno received approval from the City Council on Thursday, overcoming objections from environmental justice groups and labor unions. 

The City Council voted 5-2 to reject an appeal and approve a previous decision from the Planning Commission, with Council members Miguel Arias and Luis Chavez voting against it. 


The backstory: Scannell Properties filed for a development permit application for 48 acres located at the northeast corner of N. Marks and W. Nielsen Avenues. 

  • The project would consist of four offices and warehouse buildings that would be configured for heavy industrial uses, which the land is zoned for. 
  • A prospective tenant has not been identified yet. 
  • The buildings would be a little over 900,000 square feet in total, and include 201 loading dock doors and 594 parking spaces for vehicles and trucks. 
  • The Planning Commission approved the project last October, and the decision was shortly appealed by the Golden State Environmental Justice Alliance, Arias and the law office of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo. 
  • Ahead of a previous scheduled hearing date, Golden State Environmental Justice Alliance filed an environmental lawsuit against the project, despite it not having been approved.
  • At the center of controversy with the project was a push by unions for Scannell to agree to a Project Labor Agreement, requiring union labor on construction of the project. The company rebuffed the concept, citing an inability for the project to remain financially viable.

Driving the news: Ahead of debate by lawmakers, a set of anti-union  advocates speaking during public comment made repeated reference to negotiations between Scannell and local unions, citing the discussions of a labor pact as “extortion.”

  • Scannell project advisor and Sun editor Alex Tavlian clarified that the language utilized by the advocates was inappropriate and wildly mischaracterized otherwise productive conversations between labor unions, city officials, and the developer.
  • Scannell officials separately noted that, despite the conversations ahead of Thursday’s meeting, they were not presently in a position to agree to a labor pact on the Fresno development.
  • During debate, Arias, however, pushed back, arguing that the environmental impact review was deficient with respect to air quality, transportation and traffic impacts. 
  • He made a motion to approve the appeal and deny the project, but did not receive a second from his colleagues. 
  • Councilman Mike Karbassi made the motion to deny the appeal and approve the project, which was seconded by Councilman Nelson Esparza.

What they’re saying: “We have a long history of making south Fresno the environmental dumping ground for the whole region and the whole city,” Arias said. “And too often we talk out of both sides of our mouths claiming that we care about these neighborhoods, but the moment in which we are asked to vote down further environmental discrimination, we try and wrap ourselves around the argument that it creates jobs.” 

  • Karbassi offered a different perspective, pointing the finger at outside special interest groups for hurting Fresno. 
  • “I do believe in the last several years we have had outside money in special interests pushing to enact rent control while at the same time trying to prevent our city from diversifying our local economy to provide high value jobs for Fresno’s working families so that they can actually afford to pay their rent and hopefully some day – if they chose to – have the opportunity to own their own home,” Karbassi said. “This is a radical agenda that is meant to turn this city into a welfare state, and it is not good public policy.” 
  • Esparza, for his part, cited the project as a catalyst to recruit elements of the semiconductor manufacturing supply chain to Fresno. He authored the CHIPS Act in the hopes of incentivizing on-shoring microchip manufacturers to the San Joaquin Valley.

Editor’s Note: Sun Editor Alex Tavlian serves as a project advisor for the Nielsen Ave. project.

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