Fresno

Fresno OKs offer to purchase abandoned hospital for housing

After axing a deal for the former University Medical Center building in March, the Fresno City Council unanimously approved an offer to Fresno County to purchase the site with the intent to construct affordable housing.

In March, the city was set to enter into a regulatory agreement with the county and CMG Construction Management, who had an agreed purchase price of $4 million. Under the deal, the city would oversee the development of the property, even though CMG Construction Management had purchased it, in order to circumvent the Surplus Land Act. 

However, the city nixed the deal because of a conflict of interest surrounding the deal

That led to the county declaring the 30-acre site – the northeast corner of E. Kings Canyon Rd. and S. Cedar Ave. – as surplus. 

The city is offering $4.25 million to the county to purchase the land, which includes the two six-story hospital towers, as well as a four-story connecting wing and several low-rise buildings. 

If the county agrees to the deal, the city plans to level the site before constructing mixed-income housing, parking structures, retail space, commercial space and green space. 

“I think we have a grand opportunity here between the city and the county to really take this property to the next level,” Councilman Nelson Esparza said. 

“As we know, it’s sat vacant for over a decade – the hospital portion has – and I think this is really an opportunity that we cannot miss.” 

In addition to the $4.25 million purchase price, the city would spend $14.6 million to clear the land, $8 million for water and sewer infrastructure, $3 million for green space and $9 million for streetscapes.

ShotSpotter gets another green light

The Fresno City Council approved an expansion of the police department’s ShotSpotter program on Thursday by unanimous vote. 

Fresno first contracted with ShotSpotter, a company that provides gunshot detection technology services, in 2015 for an area of three square miles. 

Over the years the city continued to expand the service, leading to Thursday’s increase from 14.46 square miles to 17.46 square miles. 

The contract with ShotSpotter will run through the end of September 2024 and will cost $535,849. 

Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama spoke to the effectiveness of the service before the council voted. 

Balderrama said in 2020 Fresno had 140 arrests which were the result of ShotSpotter activation. 

Last year there were a total of 2,006 ShotSpotter activations, and that number is already at 1,835 this year, which is on pace for about 2,200 by the end of 2021. 

“This is a community where we highly benefit from this service because frankly there’s a lot of firearms in our community and a lot of shootings,” Balderrama said. 

“What this allows us to do is it notifies police within seconds that a firearm has been discharged within city limits and we can respond. That’s very effective, as far as I’m concerned, because I believe that the quicker we can get there when a firearm is discharged within our city limits, the higher probability that we can save someone’s life.” 

Litter abatement contracts receive approval

City Council approved two litter abatement contracts on Thursday, one centered in the Tower District and the other for the city’s freeways. 

Local organization Neighborhood Industries will receive $125,000 to provide litter abatement and alleyway maintenance in the Tower District for one year. 

Neighborhood Industries will remove litter, routinely pressure wash sidewalks and clean the alleys twice a year. 

Targeted alleyways will be between Blackstone Ave. and Weber Ave. as well as McKinley Ave. and Belmont Ave. 

The sidewalks that will be pressure washed will be along Olive Ave., Van Ness Ave., Wishon Ave. and Fulton St. 

Neighborhood Industries will provide employment opportunities within this program to the homeless, the precariously housed and people living in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. 

Council President Luis Chavez and Councilman Garry Bredefeld both called for this program to be replicated around the city in the future. 

“I really love this model where you’re actually recruiting folks that sometimes are a little bit more tougher to employ or have some challenges that they need to work through,” Chavez said. 

For the city’s freeways, the council approved a change order for $199,500 with Landscape Maintenance of America to maintain clean up services for California State Routes 41, 99, 168 and 180 within city limits. 

The council first approved the agreement with Landscape Maintenance of America in January 2020 and has approved multiple change orders since to increase the amount of service. 

Over 16,000 bags of litter have been picked up since the start of the program through the end of September, and city staff is prepared to re-bid the contract as the current deal expires in March 2022. 

Major contracts for Veterans Boulevard

The Veterans Blvd. project took a major step forward Thursday as the council approved two contracts integral to its operations. 

A joint venture with construction companies A. Teichert and Son Inc. and M.C.M. Construction was awarded a $48 million contract to perform the construction of for the Veterans Blvd.-Highway 99 interchange, the connection to Golden State Blvd., the Veterans Blvd. overcrossing of Golden State Blvd. and completing Veterans Blvd. between Wathen Ave. and the Veterans Blvd.-Brian Ave.-Barstow Ave. intersection. 

The council also signed off on an agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) for $58.4 million to install electric service facilities for the project. 

Once completed, Veterans Blvd. will have six travel lanes, a pedestrian trail, and bicycle lanes on both sides.

Funding for the project will have no impact on the city’s General Fund. Instead, the project is being financed through various sources, such as California High-Speed Rail funding, Measure C funding, state and federal grants and city development impact fees.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.