In what some members called a reluctant vote, the Fresno City Council voted 7-0 on Thursday to change its due diligence law to subsidize a southeast affordable housing project.
“We know that affordable housing is going to be a priority for this council. I think we’ve put our money where our mouth is in the past, and that’s actually what I am actually requesting today,” said the resolution’s sponsor, Luis Chavez.
Lance-Kashian & Co., a well-known Fresno developer, is building homes and retail property in an area known as Fancher Creek, on Tulare Avenue east of Clovis Avenue. However, water is provided not by the city, but by the private Bakman Water Co. The Bakman water would be used for drinking and fire suppression.
The builder asked the city for $2.7 million for a 400,000-gallon water tank and other infrastructure provided by Bakman. To do so, the city council had to change the Better Business Act — first enacted in 2009 in response to previous council-approved projects that became financial disasters.
The change would exempt projects with 100% of the units of affordable housing from Better Business Act scrutiny.
The Kashian developments are Brandhaven — a senior housing project already built, but which has not yet applied for an occupancy permit — and Sarah’s Court, which would be geared toward families. The latter broke ground earlier this year. The city has already invested nearly $10 million in both projects, which would yield 420 units, Kashian representative Sal Gonzales told the council.
Councilmembers wrestled with granting the exemption and questioned how the project advanced this far without the water issue being settled.
Miguel Arias said it was a “struggle” for the city to pay for water connections with such short notice.
“I’m going to have 24 other applicants in my district ask for the same thing. They’re going to want to say, ‘Let us build the housing project without paying any of our fees and we will keep those rooms empty until the city pays for our share of that cost,’ ” Arias said.
It wasn’t enough for Arias to vote no.
Councilwoman Annalisa Perea also had issues with using federal funds to pay for the project.
“I’m just a little disappointed with the item and how it’s been brought before us. In theory, I will always support affordable housing projects and I will be supportive of this one today. But I want to just be very clear that we are being equitable with how we’re distributing the ARPA funding,” she said.
Northwest Fresno Project Gets Second Chance
Last week, the council rejected applying for state funding for an affordable housing project in northwest Fresno geared towards adults formerly in foster care.
The alleged anti-LGBT views of LifeBridge Church, connected with the nonprofit applying for the project, were enough for Councilwoman Annalisa Perea to say no. The request failed on a 4-2 vote.
This time, a different nonprofit, Valley Teen Ranch, will step in for the city to apply for the Homekey funds. By a 6-0 vote on the consent agenda and without debate, the city and Valley Teen Ranch will apply for a $25 million grant.
A staff report described Valley Teen Ranch as a Fresno-Madera organization with 40 years of experience serving foster families.
“Valley Teen Ranch’s vision is that all children, youth, young adults, and families will live and thrive in safe and healthy homes. Valley Teen Ranch has partnered with EA Family Services to develop the proposed Homekey project where they will blend the strength of their experience to serve as onsite supportive services providers,” the staff report says.
Revised Street Racing Enforcement Passes
After a week’s delay, the council approved a revised bill to crack down on street racing and sideshows. It passed 6-0 on the consent calendar, without discussion.
Last week, councilmembers expressed concern that passersby or observers might be unfairly subject to penalty.
Changes from last week’s version to the bill passed on Thursday clarified that unintentional observers or participants would not be subject to the law. The new law imposes a $1,000 fine on violators.
“Uninvolved innocent bystanders are not in violation of this ordinance even if they are within two hundred feet of these activities if they do not possess the requisite intent to Spectate, Street Race, participate in a Sideshow, or engage in Reckless Driving Exhibition,” the revised bill reads.
The law will also apply to parking garages.
“These criminal drag racing and sideshow activities will never be tolerated in the city of Fresno and we will ensure that our streets remain safe,” Councilman Garry Bredefeld, one of the bill’s sponsors, said.