Documenter: Loren Friesen
The majority of the people on screen (about 10) were either commissioners or staff. They were zooming from (presumably) their home office or their bedroom, all of them at desks. Attire of those on screen ranged from casual (t-shirts) to professional (button up shirt, professional sweaters). Throughout the meeting I noticed that some attendees were on their phone for several minutes as people spoke or debated.
After roll call, the meeting held a Pledge of Allegiance with a U.S. flag shown on a shared screen.
The zoom operator was Gavin Haubelt, who was responsible for checking if anyone raised their hands for comments/questions after a presentation and for unmuting people to allow them to speak. While this usually went smoothly, there was one incident (note below) where there was confusion because a public attendee with comments for a debate tried to speak but couldn’t be heard, and after a few minutes Haubelt, along with Chair Bray, decided to move on and recommend that person contact them after the meeting.
Roll Call (underlined if present)
Chairperson – Kathy Bray (on zoom)
Vice Chair Raj K. Sodhi-Layne (on zoom)
Commissioner – David Criner (on zoom)
Commissioner Debra McKenzie (on zoom)
Commissioner Peter Vang (never heard him, unlike others who voiced something during a vote, and was never on screen, but difficult to confirm considering zoom options)
Commissioner Brad Hardie (calling in)
Commissioner Monica Diaz (calling in)
About the Planning Commission
The Fresno City Planning Commission is an advisory committee, consisting of seven members appointed by the Mayor and City Council. The Planning Commission recommends actions on various planning issues, such as Plan Amendments, Rezones, and appeals for Development Permits or Conditional Use Permits.
Note: A goal outlined during the part of the debate of the Parc West Development Project was proving to the state of California that the city of Fresno is working on increasing efforts to provide more housing. Another goal outlined was developing vacant/underdeveloped lots.
Chris Lang of the Planning and Development Department gave a presentation using a shared screen, showing the project’s plan to construct up to 844 single-family residential units, a 1.819-acre park and installation of a trail system that will connect to the City’s existing/future trail network in the area. The Project will be built out in phases, with Phase 1 generating 84 units. The Environmental Impact Report concluded that there would be less than significant impact on air quality energy and greenhouse gases. There would be significant and unavoidable impact on the agricultural and forestry resources with the loss of 160 acres of farmland. His presentation concluded with the recommendation to certify and adopt all considered measures and forward this recommendation to the City Council.
After public comments and some responses to those comments (see below), the recommendation passed with all present members voting in favor of the motion.
ID 20-001585 Consideration of Conditional Use Permit (CUP) filed by Mehdi Momen Concept Design Group to build 2 dwelling units, landscaping and irrigation. The subject property pertains to 0.20 acres of property located at 728 West Vassar Avenue; located on the north side of West Vassar Avenue between North Teilman Avenue and North Delno Avenue. (Council District 1). Kao Vang gave a presentation with a shared screen, concluding with the recommendation to adopt environmental assessment – it should be exempt from CEQA – and to approve the CUP application.
The motion was passed 5-0, with all present members voting yes with the exception of Commissioner Hardy, who recused himself. There was no explanation as to why he did that.
ID 20-001605 CUP application for a multi-unit residential development in a single family medium density zone district
Phillip Siegrest presented, by screen sharing, the CUP application. They would build 2 two-story single family dwelling units and 1 two story duplex on property located on the east side of North College Avenue between West Minarets and West Spruce Avenues, in Pinedale (Council District 2). He concluded that staff feel the project is appropriate for this site because it promotes reinvestment and preserves and protects resources. He recommended to adopt CEQA exemption and approve the CUP application. He noted that he received a phone call the day before the meeting and an email the day of the meeting in opposition to this project.
After lengthy debate (see below) the motion to approve the staff recommendation passed 5-0 with all commissioners present voting yes. Commissioner Criner was off the call.
ID 20-001609 CUP application Tommy Phelen of Maple Luxury Living LLC, located 2056 S Maple
Thomas Veatch gave a presentation, using a shared screen, on the CUP application and CEQA exemption for the construction of 23 multifamily units and a manager’s office with a private street going through the site. He noted this project meets the goal of developing in vacant lots. The District 5 Project Review Committee approved the project assuming that speed bumps are included in the street. They received a letter of concern, the sender saying it would lower property value and increase crime in the area. Veatch concluded with the staff recommendation to approve the CUP application and CEQA exemption.
The motion for approve the staff recommendation passed 5-0, with all present commissioners voting yes. Commissioner Criner was again absent.
Applicant Jeff Robert concurred 100% on the staff recommendation, including the final EIR and the zone amendments.
Members of the public Victor Gonzalez, Rebecca Wharton, Ashley Perritte, and Gabriel Ortiz called in to support the project. They mentioned that as residents of north west Fresno they were looking forward to further investment in the area (instead of having to drive “east of the 99 to buy stuff”), that their families and friends are also trying to move to the area and this project opens up this possibility, and/or general support and excitement for this project.
Member of the public Elisa, whose last name did not show up in Zoom, called in with several concerns, including that more housing means more constraints on emergency services and emergency services, money should be diverted to fixing other items like broken lights on Shaw Ave, questions about the legitimacy of the results of the traffic study in the report (was it done during covid?), and wondering if the parks and trail landscaping should be done right the first time (as opposed to having money spent to fix and re-fix current projects).
Jill Gormley, with public works: addressed these comments, saying staff have worked with CalTrans to make traffic flow better, are working on mitigations identified in EIR, and that the traffic study was done pre-covid so traffic counts reflected normal levels.
Chair Bray concluded, saying anyone with those concerns can reach out to Gormley and she can clarify another time.
Consideration of Conditional Use Permit (CUP) filed by Mehdi Momen Concept Design Group
There were no questions from commissioners or comments from the public.
The email in opposition to the project mentioned the 2 story duplex overlooking many backyards. Chair Bray asked applicant Cynthia Zamora about the location of windows facing the neighbors, to which Zamora identified that no windows on the 2nd story of any of the units faced the neighbors.
Tyler Mackey, lifelong resident in Pinedale, called in to deliver a lengthy speech (he was eventually cut off by the Zoom operator) in opposition to the project. Identifying himself as the sender of the email, he said the commission was missing the point. He outlined that the history of the area was a solid rural community, and the construction of these units would invite renters, not homeowners, and therefore be part of the slippery slope that disintegrated this historical community. He again mentioned the invasion of privacy from the two-story units in a one-story neighborhood. He also highlighted that many of his neighbors don’t have internet access and therefore are unable to collectively organize against this project during a pandemic, opposed to pre-covid times when the community would have once-a-month meetings. He asked for patience and that the commission does not go ahead on this project yet.
Zamora said that the project would not be harmful to the community. She got the property owner, Amyanez (their zoom name) to speak as well. She said the property, which she’s owned for “15-20 years”, is currently used as a dumpsite and that the Pinedale community deserves better. She said she couldn’t guarantee that she wouldn’t rent as Section 8 housing but that she wants to stay in the market value.
Javier Lopez, a member of the public, tried to make comments but was unable to be heard. Eventually the zoom operator and the chair decided to move on to the vote.
ID 20-001609 CUP application Tommy Phelen of Maple Luxury Living LLC, located 2056 S Maple
Joey Daggett, the applicant, offered to answer any questions. Chair Bray asked if there would be any patios or yards for each unit. Dagget said there would be a small yard but no patio. He also mentioned that they would be market rate apartments, which was an issue brought up during the neighborhood meeting as part of the CUP application.
Raj Singh Badhesha, Deputy City Attorney, notified that the Parc West Development Project will not be heard by City Council in December.
All applications that were presented at the meeting were approved and would be sent to City Council.
The meeting adjourned at 7:29 PM.
Key Meeting Takeaways
All items on the agenda, including 3 Conditional Use Permits with CEQA exemptions, passed with a unanimous vote.
Public and community members issued lengthy comments in opposition of the Parc West Development Project and the CUP application for 2 two-story units development in Pinedale. The comments were addressed by either the applicants or the commissioners, and each motion was passed unanimously, meaning those in opposition to the project did not make much of a difference in the outcome of the vote.