New Fresno proposal would require public notices for new bio labs

Anyone looking to set up a bio lab in Fresno who does not comply with the proposal could end up behind bars.

Three Fresno City Councilmembers are seeking increased regulations on any future biological labs in the city given the controversy surrounding the secret Reedley lab that held various infectious agents and bioengineered mice. 

The lack of transparency surrounding the Reedley lab and its ties to Fresno is continuing to ramp up as a major campaign issue with Councilmembers Garry Bredefeld and Miguel Arias, who are running for two seats on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. 


The big picture: Bredefeld, Arias and Councilman Nelson Esparza are proposing the Infectious Disease Lab Accountability and Transparency Ordinance to ensure the public is notified of any future infectious disease labs that wish to operate in Fresno. 

  • According to the ordinance – which will be introduced to the council on Thursday anyone looking to open up an infectious disease lab in the city will be required to notify the city’s planning director. 
  • The planning director will then notify the city councilmember who represents the area in question within 30 days. 
  • The city will also be required to alert all residents and businesses within 1,000 feet of the proposed lab at least 15 days before approving a permit. 
  • Violators could face up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. 

What they’re saying: “We at every level of government must be more hyper-vigilant and enact better safeguards to ensure the safety of the public,” Bredefeld said at a press conference at City Hall. 

  • Esparza added that the ordinance is designed to prevent a situation similar to what happened in Reedley from ever occurring in Fresno. 
  • The councilmembers also took aim at the Fresno County Board of Supervisors for not telling the public about the secret Reedley lab earlier. 
  • “No matter how much the Board of Supervisors attempt to blame others for their failures or to attempt to deflect from their incompetence, the public should have been informed about this dangerous illegal lab in their backyard,” Bredefeld said. 
  • Arias said the city is also requesting that the county provide a list of all toxic materials permits that it has issued within Fresno so that the city can inspect every site. 
  • “If the residents have the right to know when a restaurant’s going to sell alcohol in their neighborhood, they surely have a right to know when a foreign lab engaging in experiments related to COVID is operating within their neighborhood and within their city,” Arias said. 

The other side: Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau, who is defending his seat against Bredefeld, shot back at the councilmembers, saying they should have been on top of the situation when Universal Meditech was operating a lab in the city. 

“This lab spent over 3 years in the City of Fresno (with dire warnings from then-Fire Chief Kerri Donis) while only a couple months in Reedley,” Brandau said in a statement. “The City of Fresno should consider the words of Jesus, ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.’”

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