Documenter: Heather Halsey Martinez
The Clovis City Council meeting took place on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021 at 6 p.m. The meeting took place just after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and on the eve of the inauguration of Joe Biden. The COVID-19 state of emergency continued, keeping Valley hospitals busy and a regional stay-at-home order in effect. Fresno County is beginning a larger scale rollout of vaccinations to residents 75 and older, though no public vaccination sites have opened in Clovis yet.
The seats of Ashbeck and Mouanoutoua are up for reelection on March 2. Following the filling of those seats, 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. Whalen was not in council chambers when the meeting started, but later joined around 6:30 p.m. It was mentioned that he was running late. Lynne Ashbeck was the only councilmember to wear a face mask throughout the meeting. The other councilmembers 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, Councilmember (also Senior Vice President Community Engagement and Population Wellness, Valley Children’s Healthcare)
Vong Mouanoutoua, Councilmember (also External Relations and Project Development Director, Community Medical Foundation)
Bob Whalen, Councilmember (also Fresno County Deputy District Attorney)
The meeting opened with Bessinger inviting 14-year-old Amanda Bales, Clovis resident and new Eagle Scout, to lead the council in the Pledge of Allegiance. She was recently awarded the highest rank by the Boy Scouts of America Sequoia Council and became the first female to reach the status of Eagle Scout in the region. She attended the meeting with her family and was applauded by the council. Bessinger awarded her with a, “challenge coin.”
Mouanoutoua then read a proclamation declaring January 2021 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in the City of Clovis. He said the the Fresno Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) Sanctuary Youth Shelter and Central Valley supportive services assisted and identified more than 1,300 victims of human trafficking from local communities. “The City of Clovis recognizes a need for awareness and accountability for modern day slavery,” he read. Bessinger added that the City’s transit vehicles, including city buses, are designated Safe Places and those who need help can get on a bus to get help. He also mentioned an incident in December where a 12-year-old girl from Fresno County was abducted through the Fresno Yosemite International Airport and said that signs have been added to provide guidance for anyone there against their will.
Representatives from the Fresno EOC Sanctuary Youth Shelter and Breaking The Chains attended the meeting. One of them said those wishing to donate to the cause can make donations through pledge2stoptrafficking.org. Six women from the organization posed for a photo with the councilmembers.
Bessinger then took the opportunity to comment on the presidential inauguration. He appeared to be reading from a pre-written statement and said, “It’s important to celebrate the resilience and the living document that is our Constitution…President Bident begins his term in a divided and fractured nation and I hope with his significant experience and leadership, that he can bring everyone to the table and create an environment where all Americans feel a part of the Democratic process. Our American experience needs a little bit of help right now. If we can stop being Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, and being identity politics and start being Americans first, I think we’ll be much better off. I wish President Biden the best of luck and success, may God protect and guide him. I’d also like to thank our outgoing president, President Trump, thank him for his dedication to our nation and lastly, may God continue to bless the United State of America.”
From there, the meeting was opened for public comments and no one in chambers nor online had any comments.
Amended the Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District schedule of drainage costs and fees for 2021-22. Approved unanimously without discussion by the four councilmembers in attendance.
Approved MOU between Fresno County and the City regarding standards of annexation regarding 40 acres at the southeast corner of Ashlan and Thompson Avenues. Presented by George Gonzalez, senior planner, and requested by Stone Valley Communities so they can begin building. It will also bring public right-of-way of Ashlan Avenue along the development’s frontage road. Approved unanimously without discussion by the four councilmembers in attendance.
Amended the Loma Vista Marketplace standards for approximately 23 acres of property located at the southwest corner of Shaw and Leonard Avenues. The council discussed the changes and asked questions for more than 30 minutes with the biggest sticking point being a formerly proposed pathway that would provide easy pedestrian access through the shopping center diagonally. The amendment would eliminate the diagonal path and replace it with a 10-12-foot-wide trail along the perimeter of the shopping center. Other changes include lower parking ratios (4 per 1,000-square-feet rather than 5.4 per 1,000-square-feet) and building setbacks.
City Planner Dave Merchen presented the amendment and went through diagrams and maps of the shopping center, which will include retail and office space. He addressed the council’s concerns about the trail alignment and ability to traverse it easily, by pointing out that riders on skateboards and scooters don’t work well crossing paths with someone pushing a shopping cart out of a store. Ashbeck said, “I was a little bit surprised to see nightclubs, I was looking for grocery stores.”
Will Dyck of Summa Development Group is the site developer and was at the meeting. He said they’ve secured tentative agreements from future tenants for 50% of the eastern nine buildings and after a two-week waiting period, will be ready to proceed with the building process immediately, including a speculative office building.
Motion passed unanimously after considerable discussion.
Approve annexation of property on the northeast corner of Locan and Teague to the City of Clovis Community Facilities District. On Dec. 7, 2020 the council heard a petition from residents requesting a special tax on property owners. One ballot was received representing five votes unanimously who voted in favor of the special tax levy. Passed unanimously by the council.
Approve a resolution to execute a consultant agreement between the City and Ascent Environmental, Inc. for assistance preparing and administering the housing report. The cost will be approximately $250,000, which the City will receive in grant money earmarked for this purpose. The deadline to update the housing report is December 2023 or January 2024. Flores asked if they went through an RFP and competitive bid process, they did and only received one proposal and that was from Ascent. Passed unanimously by the council.
To close the meeting, City Manager Luke Serpa presented statistics from the health department on COVID-19 cases. He said the 25 deaths he previously reported did not all occur in one week, but it was due to a backlog. The City has seen 4,972 positive COVID-19 cases in Clovis since the pandemic began and 85 total deaths. He gets updated info on the second business day of the week so he will get updated figures tomorrow. Fresno County has 75.2 adjusted new cases per 100,000 population (up from 68.2), 18.3% positivity rate, 19.5% health equity quartile positive rate, in the purple tier and the regional stay-at-home order has remained in effect since Dec. 10, 2020. He said Sacramento was able to come out of the stay-at-home order due to projections showing above 15% ICU availability for the region. “I think it’s going to be a while before we reach 15%,” he said.
Whalen asked about the vaccine rollout and if there was an opportunity for the City to begin vaccinating and help expedite the process. Serpa said it was complicated because the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at -80 degree temperatures and the City doesn’t have the ability to do that, but they could handle the Moderna vaccine. “We want to get as many vaccinations out there as possible, but the bottleneck there is probably going to be vaccine availability,” he said. Serpa said they are now having concerns for public safety staff being able to get their second dose of the vaccine. He mentioned they had discussed the possibility of setting up a vaccine clinic for health professionals, EMS and fire personnel, in addition to the police department in an effort to get them vaccinated quicker. Serpa said that drive-thru COVID-19 testing has been canceled in Clovis now due to lack of demand.
When asked for any final comments, Mouanoutoua said he attended the League of California Cities’ Housing, Community and Economic Development Policy Committee and voted on their priorities and had taken a position on Senator Anna Caballero’s bill SB1447 to help small businesses, which he said was a, “no unless amended.” Bessinger said he and Flores were also in a League of California Cities public safety committee, and Assemblymember Mike Gipson spoke about requiring an associate or bachelor’s degree to become a police officer. Bessinger said he was so concerned he wrote a letter because he feels it would exclude military veterans or those from disadvantaged communities that don’t have access to a community college. He suggested they accept some core classes outside of a full degree program. “It’s hard enough recruiting people and finding qualified people who can do the job now and we don’t want to put roadblocks up,” Bessinger said in reference to his role as Chief of Police for the Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
In closing, Serpa mentioned that the Landmark Square project, which includes a new senior center, will hold a, “socially-distanced groundbreaking,” on Feb. 16 at 2:00 p.m.
The public portion of the meeting adjourned at 7:48 p.m. and the council went into a closed door session to discuss anticipated litigation regarding a demand letter that the City received from an individual that was arrested in the City in January 2020.
The City moved its Loma Vista Marketplace commercial development forward by amending the standards for the 23-acre property located at the southwest corner of Shaw and Leonard Avenues. Though the Council approved the amendments, many members seemed hesitant about the deviation from their original desire to have a pedestrian pathway that crosses the shopping center diagonally. The pathway was replaced with a trail that will run along the perimeter and work within the developer’s design constraints.
COVID-19 vaccinations are not yet planned in Clovis. The City does not have the cold storage capabilities required for the Pfizer vaccine, but can accommodate the Moderna vaccine when they become available for distribution from the County. The City has stopped its drive-through testing due to, “lack of demand.”
The council met in a closed door session to discuss pending litigation regarding a demand letter received from an individual arrested in the City earlier in January.