Documenter: Loren Friesen

Location: COG Ash Conference Room, 2035 Tulare St., Suite 201, Fresno, CA

Due to COVID-19 the Fresno Council of Governments (COG) meeting met virtually via zoom. Many COG members displayed their video in either a professional setting or with a backdrop of a local government seal. There were about 50 attendees in total. Due to the Zoom grid and inconsistencies in self naming – staff and members sometimes went by their first names, sometimes by their official title, it was difficult to assess how many attendees were of the public. The majority of attendees had their videos off, and about 5 attendees were participating through the phone. The meeting started at 5:31 p.m, with Mayor Cardenas, the chair, welcoming everyone and explaining the procedures for participating through zoom – using the Zoom “raise hand” feature, stating their name and agency they represent, and that they must be recognized by the chair in order to speak. 

Jeaneen Cervantes, Office Administrator, took the following roll call: 

Clovis, Coalinga ,Fresno, Firebaugh, Fresno County, Kerman, Kingsburg, Parlier, Reedley, Selma – present

Huron, Mendota, Sanger – late due to technical difficulties

San Joaquin, Orange Cove – absent

A quorum was reached. Nobody from the public responded to the chair’s invitation to identify themselves. 

Mayor Yep of Kerman made a motion to approve the consent calendar. All present members (11) voted yes. The chair then moved forward on the following agenda items.

Agenda Item II: Transportation Action/Discussion Items

  1. Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy

  1. Demographic Forecast Update

Seth Scott, GIS specialist, delivered an update on several forecast studies. The Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) requires forecasting tools to analyze what the projections are for the county “to model future years”. The last update was in 2017. Starting “2 or 3 years ago” forecasts have become more conservative in anticipation of growth. Due to COVID-19 many prior projections were upended, notably the economic growth. Note: found on page 20/21, Fowler noted that there was confusion regarding vacancy rates because data was coming from 2 different sources (Department of Finance and the American Community Survey census).

Population: Looking back on the population projections 2015, there was more population growth than expected and less jobs than projected. 

Looking at population projections for 2019-2050, most growth is expected to occur in Fresno and Clovis. The county average is expected to increase by 20%. 

Economics: (Data from Employment Development Department): The county decreased jobs by 7.7% from 2014-2019, vastly due to the pandemic. 31,400 jobs were lost. A “V” shape recovery – projected by Beacon Economics, where the county reaches 2019 levels of employment by early 2020 – is unlikely, whereas a “U” shape recovery – projected by Chumra, and is dependent on vaccine availability – is more likely. Scott also noted that some businesses have gone out entirely and didn’t survive the recession. He projects 2019 employment levels by the end of 2022.

Looking at 2014-2019 projections, job growth was underprojected in Fresno and overprojected in unincorporated areas.

Looking at 2019-2050 projections, there will be 69,700 more jobs in Fresno, while Kerman and Fowler top the charts in percentage of job growth. While manufacturing is expected to decline, a 4.5% growth in agriculture is expected due to new farming technologies, while industrial (logistics) jobs are expected to increase by 23.5%.

Housing: 2014-2019 projections were slightly lower than in actuality. In 2019-2050 projections there is an expected increase in demand for multi family housing, a slight increase in the average household size. More than 50% of renters are paying more than 30% of their income on rent (which was improving until the pandemic). 

Mayor Dhaliwal of San Joaquin asked a question after some technical difficulties: Will customer behavior go back to pre-covid times or will the online economy dominate? Scott expects there will be long term impact, which is why they opted for moderate projections. Mayor Dhaliwal also asked if there will be local effects from monopolies like Amazon? While Scott said to look forward to potential action from the incoming administration and that local government will need to create environments that help local buying.

With a motion from Mayor Beltran of Parlier, and a 2nd from Clovis Mayor Bessinger to approve the update, the update passed with 14 yes’s – Mayors of Mendota and Sanger arrived or made themselves present during the vote, and Orange Cove and City of Fresno were absent (later it was made known the City of Fresno was muted during voting). There were no no’s and no members abstained from voting. 

  1. Regional Transportation Plan Call-for-Projects

Suzanne Martinez, Associate Regional Planner, informed members and the public that A “2022 RTP call for projects” commenced on November 2, and any submissions must be sent to Fresno COG or Fresnotrak no later than 5 PM on December 16. She also said that on October 29 COG hosted a training workshop for submitting RTP projects, and a recording of that workshop is available upon request. Projects submitted could potentially be a part of the new Measure C expenditure plan.

Rey Leon of Huron chats that he’s in, and can’t be heard. After initially no comments from members or public, Kristine Cai offers a late comment (she was muted): She emphasized that the Measure C renewal efforts and the RTP process will have “coordinated efforts” and that Measure C will draw from RTP, meaning this is the opportunity for your project be potentially considered in the expenditure plan of the next measure”. She encouraged collaboration between staff and local Public Works departments to send a comprehensive list of projects. 

  1. 2022 RTP Fall Outreach Summary Report 

After a couple minutes of figuring out audio difficulties, Robert Phiipps delivered an informational summary on TRP outreach strategies to the public. Mayor Beltran of Parlier excused herself for another board meeting. Phipps talked about the online survey meant to gather public transportation projects suggestions from region residents, which was available from September 9 to October 22:, using English, Spanish, and Punjabi, a Facebook Live event, 7 social media posts,  virtual meeting presentations, and 6 newsletters. They received almost 3800 survey views, 1301 project suggestions (1176 via the online survey and 11 through social media), and 531 people signed up to receive Fresno COG’s RTP progress reports. However, the demographics of the survey takers did not statistically reflect the population, as 55% were white and 22% made between $100,000-$150,00.

Rey Leon, due to technical difficulties, missed the majority of the presentation and asked what was the total number of project suggestions. Phipps noted that the total number of suggestions, 1301, was better than expected.

B. Redesignation of the Fresno Urban and Rural Consolidated Transportation Services Agencies 2021-2022 

Les Beshears, Finance Director, gave background on how the Fresno County’s Transportation Development Act is a $50 million program started in 1982, and COG made the agency to create Consolidated Transportation Service Agency (CTSA), including a urban CTSA and rural CTSA (and something else ~ Clovis CTSA? ~ but the audio broke out). Initially Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission (EOC) and the City of Fresno were designated as partners for the urban CTSA, but that formal partnership dissolved after the mayor requested only FAX be the urban CTSA. Rurally, similar events transpired as EOC and rural counties were formal partners for the rural CTSA but that partnership dissolved and FCRTA became the official CTSA for rural areas. It was noticed that TDA funding meant for community transit had built up on EOC’s books.

Because EOC provides services, there will be a request for proposal that will still designate FAX as the urban CTSA and FCRTA as the rural CTSA, and will therefore receive funding, but they will subcontract EOC depending on levels of service. Beshears said that the general manager for FAX pointed out it’s just a reformation of a successful relationship.  

Ray Leon noted that he has a conflict of interest on this vote ( he’s on the EOC board) and since he hadn’t heard back from his attorney on whether he can vote he recused himself.

Moses Stites, the General Manager of FCRTA, said he’s been working with Emilia Reyes, EOC CEO, and her executive staff, and it appears that they will continue to work with EOC, one of largest community based organizations.

Gregory Barfield, Director of Transportation for the City of Fresno, said this redesignation will bring better accountability on all sides and he looks forward to working with EOC for much needed services.

There were no questions from members.

From the public, Emilia Reyes, EOC CEO, said thanks to Barfield and Stites on the whole process, highlighted that EOC is one of biggest community agencies and is here to serve community, that the “pandemic has highlighted need for collaboration throughout the county”, and that Fresno City and Fresno County looked to EOC to bring 26 nonprofit agencies to support the black, immigrant, and rural community. She is looking forward to the partnership with Fresno City and FCRTA. 

With a motion from Mayor Castro of Mendota and seconded by Mayor Dhaliwal of San Jaquin, the motion passed with 12 yes’s. Mayor Leon of Huron recluded, and Orange Cove, Fresno County, and Parlier were absent. Alison Samarin thanked Mayor Leon for recluding, saying it was a smart decision. 

C Fresno County Regional Trails Master Plan Update 

Peggy Arnest, Senior Regional Planner, gave an informational update on a trails master plan, including hiking trails in areas outside city boundaries and bike paths. These trails were put in after data collected from community input, field visits, and best practices in planning. They are now looking for public opinion, and developed an interactive online map that allows users to review and comment. The map is available until Dec 4. Mayor of Reedley asked if the trails are linked from the city that go out into the county (Arnest said yes they’re trying to), and after noting that some trails on the map appear by the railroad and rivers said that she would discuss with Arnest in private about amending the map. Mayor Leon of Huron said he would call Arnest later to talk about recommending trails by canals and in the rural county. 

D. Local Housing Planning Grants Program Draft Guidelines and Application 

Meg Prince, Associate Regional Planner, gave an informational presentation on using $914,700, provided by the state Regional Early Action Planning (REAP) grant, that will be used to accelerate the production of housing. She wants to align their guidelines with Local Early Action Planning guidelines. People can take a look at draft guidelines and submit comments to until December 18. For a sense of the timeline of this project, she plans to adopt guidelines by January 28, 2021 and have the project completed by August 1, 2023.

There were no questions from members or the public. 

E. Fresno COG sixth cycle Regional Housing Needs Allocation plan (RHNA) 

Meg Prince, Associate Regional Planner, gave an informational presentation on the RHNA. It includes a subcommittee that will convene in January, and will include staff representatives from 16 jurisdictions in Fresno County and 3 at-large members. They will reach out to potential subcommittee members, and will keep their website up to date with relevant info. People can reach out to Meg Prince with questions. 

There were no questions from members or the public.

The chair brought up a motion to approve consent items (items deemed uncontroversial by members) I A,B, and C, with no motion to comment or discuss. 

Mayor of Clovis motioned to approve, and Mayor of Reedley seconded. The motion passed with 13 yes’s. Orange cove, Fresno County, and Parlier were absent.

There were no IV “admin/discussion items”.

Before moving on to V “other items” the chair realized he forgot item II F “Caltrans Report”, apologized, and asked the Caltrans representative to provide the report. David Padilla, the Caltrans rep, was present instead of the regular representative Micheal Navarro, who was at another board meeting. Padilla delivered the report, mentioning that

  • Sustainable Transportation Planning grant applications should be out by “mid December, and will call for applications soon after”.

  • the annual “Move Over” highway safety campaign is kicking off this week (in 2019 there were 53 fatalities, 3200+ injuries on the road).

  • Contractors are working on tree removal regarding the fires on 168, and there is an ongoing safety investigation.

  •  the Caltrans projects Kingsburg 99 201 separation project just had a coordination meeting, and estimated will be completed by March 2021. The project is similar to a rehabilitation project in Selma-Fowler that will have a bid opening in January for subcontractors.

  • DC fast charging stations (1 out of 10 locations in the City of Fresno) project is in its 2nd phase: the contractor received the fast trackers and is waiting for PG&E to install (busy with restoration at fire sites).

  • South Fresno 99 corridor project is in the environmental credentials phase, and the draft document is scheduled for early 2021. 

  • Veterans interchanges advertise in early 2021 and are looking at spring construction.

  • the Kings canyon 180 sniff road to *audio inaudible canal completed Dec 1. Subcontractors are behind due to covid but there is a virtual ribbon cutting and drone flying on December 2.

Mayor of Reedley thanked the rep for completing project 180 and asked if there are plans regarding highway 41. Padilla answered there are a couple of standalone projects. The Mayor or Reedley asked to make the area a 3-lane if not 4-lane, to which Padilla replied that there is “interim improvement” and they recognized the public wants safety features now. They are “heading towards” gap closure and additional lanes. Tony Boren, Executive Director of COG, said they will be to be funded by the state (ITIP) and how it will be funded is TBD, but at least in interim Caltran has a plan to make it safe for the moment and have contributed money to match regional to get project started right away

The City of Mendota Mayor, zooming from his bed, said that Caltrans has been doing a very good job in Mendota.

V. Other items

Boren highlighted that there is no December meeting.

Fresno County chimes in, says was muted during the meeting but was actually voting, and will connect with the Office Administrator tomorrow.

The next 15 minutes consisted of Mayor of Coalinga and Mayor Dhaliwal announcing that this will be their last COG meeting (due to retirement and election results) and they had enjoyed working with the board. They expressed gratitude. Mayor Dhaliwal said “as a first generation immigrant who earned his first paycheck…picking grapes and working the tomato machines…I never imagined having the opportunity to be a part of this important group and I learned a lot. I just want to express my gratitude… [There were] many landmark things to be a part of, including the water revolution that we’ve been able to bring out in the State of California.” 

The Mayor of Mendota, Mayor of Kerman, Mayor of Huron, Mayor of Reedley, Mayor of Clovis, Mayor of Firebaugh, and Boren all expressed their gratitude, saying these two mayors made Fresno County a better place. Mayor Elsa of Firebaugh also noted that she’s taking a 4 year break. This concluding conversation was full of appreciation of the work these retiring mayors had done as well as caution for everyone for the coming months and wishes for everyone to stay safe while they enjoy the holidays. 

There were no comments made for public Presentations. 

The meeting adjourned at 7:13 PM. A handful of attendees stayed on Zoom or the FCRTA meeting.

Key Meeting Takeaways

  • COG is looking for civic participation in many of their projects, including the RTP Call for Projects and the Master Plan for Trails. They have online portals for citizens to submit their ideas and proposals. They want community input on what would best serve them while they are in the middle of the preparation stage for several projects.

  • EOC, the largest community based agency in the county, is being brought back into urban and rural transit services by being subcontracted by FAX and FCRTA (II B). EOC had a formal partnership with the City of Fresno for urban transit services and the County of Fresno for rural transit services, but because of some questions about bookkeeping those formal partnerships dissolved. To bring back EOC’s formal participation of providing transit services, FAX and FCRTA will subcontract EOC. This move was called a “reformation of an already successful partnership”. 

  • Economic recovery is critical to fund allocation for many of these services as they rely on regional and state grants. Many of the services and projects cited funding from regional and state grants. If money dries up from lack of taxes collected in a withering economy there will be less money to spend on transit and transportation projects deemed less essential.

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