Fresno touts $250mil budget item for downtown. Here’s why it’s too early to celebrate.

Gov. Gavin Newsom showed Fresno love in his May revision to the budget. But with $32 billion in deficits and cuts to major spending categories, there’s plenty of game to be played.

Amid the introduction of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s May revision to the budget came a shot-in-the-arm for the City of Fresno, courtesy of a proposed $250 million budget appropriation for its stifled downtown revitalization.

Friday, as City leaders celebrated, the announcement begged a larger question: with California facing a $32 billion budget deficit, are local officials getting ahead of their skis?


Driving the news: California Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed a $250 million investment to improve the downtown core of Fresno, pending approval from the California Legislature.

  • The proposed funding will go towards infrastructure improvements, including additional parking structures, green spaces, street and landscape investments, and replacing aging infrastructure to create safer and walkable neighborhoods.
  • The budget appropriation came after heavy lobbying of the Newsom administration by Fresno representatives, led by Asm. Joaquin Arambula (D–Fresno), Fresno City Council member Miguel Arias, and former Mayor Ashley Swearengin.
  • Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer held a press conference on Friday to tout the proposed spending, breaking down his hopes to steer improvements to the urban core of the city and triple its resident population to 10,000.

Breaking down the quarter-bil: The proposed funding is headlined by $80 million for downtown revitalization, which will require several capital improvement projects to develop vacant land into vibrant housing and improve aging and insufficient local infrastructure.

  • $70 million for two parking structures, adding 2,000 more parking spaces to the existing 2,081 existing parking spaces in four City-owned parking structures.
  • $20 million for a new Intermodal Transit Center to provide residents and travelers with access to the city’s public transit system and other modes of transit.
  • $20 million for roadway, sidewalk, street lighting, and landscape improvements along nearby streets, including Chinatown.
  • $25 million for improvements to stormwater infrastructure facilities on G Street from Fresno Street to Divisadero.
  • $10 million each for improving downtown water distribution and wastewater collection systems.
  • $15 million for pocket parks and linear parks along key transit and commercial corridors to provide green spaces for downtown residents and visitors.

State of Play: The announcement of the funding allocation comes at a unique moment for the City of Fresno and its local representatives.

  • Arambula (D–Fresno), the legislative representative for downtown Fresno, announced a bid for the Speakership of the Assembly, challenging consensus caucus choice Asm. Robert Rivas (D–Hollister).
  • Since announcing his Speaker bid, many of Arambula’s key, localized legislative goals for the term – reorienting Fresno County’s transportation authority and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District – have been killed with little consideration from fellow Democrats.
  • Arambula’s name has recently begun swirling around as a potential challenger to Dyer in 2024, foregoing a re-election bid for his fifth term in the statehouse.
    • As for the budget revision, Newsom’s proposed budget changes include $4.3 billion in cuts to its second-largest spending category – K-12 and higher education – which are likely to be minimized amid negotiations with legislative leadership.

    What they’re saying: Dyer embraced what Fresno’s still rebounding downtown could be with a major cash infusion.

    • “This is a historic day for the City of Fresno,” Dyer said. “Great cities have great downtowns, and we are about ready to have a great downtown as long as this makes its way through the legislature, and they approve what governor is proposing in his May Revise.”
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