Documenter: Heather Halsey Martinez

The Scene

The Clovis City Council meeting took place on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021 at 6:03 p.m. Fresno County has begun to roll out COVID-19 vaccines to residents 75 and older and a CVS location could be the first site in Clovis to offer them starting Feb. 11. 

The seats of Ashbeck and Mouanoutoua are up for reelection on March 2. One of the council candidates, Herman Nagra, was arrested Jan. 28 after Mouanoutoua contacted the police to report stolen election signs and they were found in his backyard.  Following the election, the council will also elect a new mayor and mayor pro tem among themselves.

The meeting was made available via Webex and YouTube Live. The agenda states that face masks are required for those who attend in person due to COVID-19. Ashbeck was the only council member to wear a face mask throughout the meeting. The other council members did not wear face masks while seated during the meeting.

Names of officials:

Drew Bessinger, Mayor (also Chief of Police, Fresno Yosemite International Airport)

Jose Flores, Mayor Pro Tem (also Chief of Police, State Center Community College District Police Department)

Lynne Ashbeck, Council Member (also Senior Vice President Community Engagement and Population Wellness, Valley Children’s Healthcare)

Vong Mouanoutoua, Council Member (also External Relations and Project Development Director, Community Medical Foundation)

Bob Whalen, Council Member (also Fresno County Deputy District Attorney)

The meeting opened with Whalen leading the council in the Pledge of Allegiance. Bessinger then announced that they would unveil the City of Clovis flag in chambers. It has a navy blue background and features the city’s, “Bronco Billy,” logo in the middle of the flag. He then went on to present a proclamation declaring the week of Feb. 14-20 as, “National Salute to Veteran Patients Week.” He said as part of the week, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs is encouraging members of the public to visit veterans in local VA medical facilities or to volunteer. 

From there, the meeting was opened for public comments. No public comments were made in council chambers, online, nor through correspondence. 

Bessinger announced that an item on the agenda regarding approving and submitting a rubberized pavement grant would be pulled due to, “a last minute change.” 


  • Receive and file the quarterly report for the Economic Development Corporation of Fresno County. The City and the EDC entered into a contract for the 2020-2021 fiscal year for regional marketing and business services. Approved unanimously with no discussion. 

  • Approve street closure requests/declare certain events as Old Town special events and setting boundaries for them. Approved unanimously with little discussion. 

    • Ashbeck asked about the notice required in order to close the street and expressed concerns about the resolution not being clear about the requirements. Several council members chimed in to help explain that the city requires any person wishing to have a public event to seek a declaration from the city council 90 days prior to the event and the city requires 60 days to provide permits. The council agreed to add the ordinance number to the resolution to make it more clear. 

  • Approve a resolution authorizing the City Manager to execute a MOU between the city and California Health Sciences University (CHSU) allowing for the build out of its campus to include student and faculty housing. Approved unanimously with discussion. 

    • Renee Mathis, planning and development services director, presented the item. She explained that the city originally approved a campus of 70 acres, but CHSU has acquired more land and would like to nearly double their plans to develop approximately 123 to 138 acres.

    • Approximately 70 acres would include student and faculty housing. Plans include a 286 student apartments along Temperance Avenue between Alluvial and Nees Avenues as well as 64 townhouses and 250 single-family homes for faculty planned along Locan Avenue between Owens Mountain Parkway and Nees Avenue. 

    • CHSU completed an economic impact analysis and report spanning a seven-year period, which showed 530 permanent jobs would be created and more than 2,000 one time jobs in construction and other sectors. Cumulatively the project would have an economic impact of $580 million and it’s estimated that more than $350 million from capital investment will also be injected into the local and regional economy. 

    • Whalen questioned the, “first right of refusal,” and how it would work. Mathis explained that faculty who purchase the homes and later want to sell them, must first offer properties back to CHSU before the open market. She said that other universities have been able to do so. 

    • Members of the CHSU staff were in chambers, along with Granville Homes President and CEO Darius Assemi. Whalen asked if the apartments and/or homes would be affordable to which, Assemi said, “We really don’t have an affordable housing element attached to the student housing or the faculty housing…this college is post-graduate, so we’re really dealing with a different clientele. It’s not the Fresno State or city college applicant that’s coming to CHSU and taking advantage of that student housing.”  He went on to say that the students are in their mid-20s to mid-30s.

      • Whalen then asked about the, “favorable terms,” that students would be given when renting one of the apartments. Assemi said that if they were available today, the benefit could be no or low deposit. But five years from now, that could be different. He continued on to say the apartments would be offered to CHSU students first, then offered to the public. 

    • CHSU is located prominently in the Clovis Research & Technology Park, which currently encompasss approximately 343 acres and CHSU will develop up to 138 acres.

      • Ashbeck mentioned a past decision the council made to deny a long-term care or rehabilitation facility, since it was housing of sorts and now there will be housing in the R & T Park. She thought that a long-term care facility could be reconsidered now because the vision has changed a bit. 

      • Flores mentioned the possibility of changing the name of the Research & Technology Park to something like, “Research, Technology and Educational Park.” He said, “We need to rebrand ourselves because we promised a research and technology park because we envisioned the next Apple, the next ebay or some other thing before the dot com bubble busted…but those things aren’t happening, they can happen anywhere in the world, they don’t need a physical place. But we do need a place to teach doctors and nurses.” 

      • Whalen said he was nervous when CHSU first expressed interest in building in Clovis. He said it was due in part to an experience they had with Cargo Bay, which was first envisioned as a place for online retailers to store goods, but turned into a standard self storage facility. He said he would be, “sorely disappointed,” if housing is developed within the R&T Park and it isn’t done in a way that is reserved for CHSU students and faculty. 

        • “There’s been a series of trustful steps that have been taking place that have brought me to a level of comfort that should we move forward with this resolution, that we have a partner in CHSU that has shown themselves to be trustworthy and that they will not be abusing the privilege of being able to build housing within the R and T Park,” Whalen said. 

      • Bessinger commented that, “this will be a domino effect, in 10 to 15 years, we will have excellent jobs, be able to have kids from small towns…that can actually see themselves as a doctor, as a pharmacist and medical professional. The economic benefits, the social benefits will be huge for us.” 

In closing, City Manager Luke Serpa gave an update on COVID-19 cases in the state and local area. He said California cases have continued to decrease, as did Fresno County and the city of Clovis. He said deaths due to COVID have also decreased, but the chart he showed with Clovis numbers showed the highest spike yet, his chart showed 18 deaths reported by the county on Feb. 5. 

Regarding vaccines, Serpa said the supply continues to be a limiting factor. He says there is hope that a new round of general public vaccinations should begin next week for 75 and older. Ashbeck mentioned Governor Newsom’s announcement about a FEMA vaccination site in Fresno and that they would bring their own vaccines.

In closing, Bessinger said he had been contacted by Dr. Steven Fogg, Clovis Unified School Board president, who asked if the city council members could help advocate for and show, “support for moving teachers up in tier so that they can be more comfortable going back to work.” He said he would make some inquiries and get it put on the agenda for discussion at a later date. 

Ashbeck said that she doesn’t fully understand the barrier for schools opening because the county said they could open. But, she said that Kings Canyon Unified was able to vaccinate their staff and the school has been open since October.

Whalen asked about CVS getting vaccines, but Serpa said, “No, we have not heard any specifics because they have to wait until they get the actual dosages.” Whalen also shared an image of a tree along the trail decorated for Valentine’s Day and said how much he appreciates all of their spouses. 

Ashbeck brought up the City of Davis and how they created their own COVID bubble and the positivity rate is just 1 percent. She said they invested in testing for every resident and were able to open schools and keep numbers low. She asked if Andy Haussler, the city’s Community and Economic Development Director, could look into it. 

In closing, Mouanoutoua brought up the ability of naming buildings into perpetuity again, as he did last week. Flores said he was serious about the renaming of the Research & Technology Park. Bessinger offered cake to everyone in the room because his birthday is on Friday. 

The meeting adjourned at 7:55 p.m. 


  • The council approved the California Health Sciences University to greatly expand its footprint, from 70 to 138 acres, and move forward with Darius Assemi’s plan to develop student and faculty housing within its Research & Technology Park. A 286-unit student apartment complex, 64 townhouses and 250 single-family homes for faculty are currently envisioned.
    City Manager Luke Serpa didn’t sound confident that vaccine doses were coming to Clovis CVS, which conflicts with reports that it would receive doses on Feb. 11.

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