Fresno’s answer for weed-infested, eyesore highway embankment? Rocks.

Fresno’s poorly-irrigated, homeless-infested highway embankments have sustained 600 fires. The city could be embracing Phoenix or Vegas-style xeriscape.

Fresno is looking for a way to clean up its highways and landscaping on the embankments. 

How the city will do it, however, remains to be seen as the City Council goes through its budget hearings. 


Driving the news: On Tuesday, Mayor Jerry Dyer’s administration proposed $355,500 during the Public Works Department hearing for highway litter control. 

  • The funding would come from Measure P – the three-eights cent sales tax for parks. Specifically, the Measure P funding would come from Bucket 5, which is available for litter control as well as landscape maintenance and the beautification of freeways. 
  • Fresno lawmakers did not seem amenable to tapping parks tax revenues for the highway clean-ups.

By the numbers: Wednesday, Fire Chief Billy Alcorn was asked by the council about fires along the city’s freeways, often started by the homeless on the overgrown and dead grass and foliage. 

  • The city removed over 600 people from the freeways in 2021 as part of Project Offramp. 
  • That year the Fire Department had to respond to 618 fires along the freeways. 
  • While the homeless issue is not nearly as dire as it was along the freeways a few years ago, this year the Fire Department has already responded to 133 freeway fires, Alcorn said. 

The big picture: Councilman Tyler Maxwell suggested using Measure P funding to transform the landscaping along the city’s freeways to xeriscaping to remove all plants and replace them with the concrete landscaping style seen in cities such as Phoenix and Las Vegas. 

  • Dyer said his staff recently contacted Caltrans about removing homeless people from the freeways but doesn’t feel confident that the homeless and fire issues will be handled long-term by Caltrans. 
  • “I’m not at all pleased with the consistency of what is occurring on our freeways,” Dyer said. “I’ve always believed that we shouldn’t allow another agency to determine our success, which is why I had funding in the budget to remove trash from the freeways. I’d hate to have to see us go out there and mow the freeways.” 
  • Maxwell asked Dyer to meet with Caltrans soon so the City Council could consider allocating some Measure P funding in a partnership with the state to xeriscape the freeways. 
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