Documenter: Heather Halsey

The Scene

The Clovis City Council meeting took place on Monday, March 15, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. It was the council’s first meeting following the March 2 election, which resulted in Ashbeck and Mouanoutoua beating out the other three candidates to retain their seats on the council. Their terms will be for three years rather than the traditional four as the city will move in 2022 to be aligned with the presidential election. Mouanoutoua garnered 9,113 or 32.05% of the votes, while Ashbeck received 8,949 or 31.47% of the total votes. The closest candidate was Diane Pearce with 6,060 or 21.31% votes. 

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 Mouanoutoua leading the council for the Pledge of Allegiance. He then presented a proclamation declaring March 17, 2021 as Small Business Development Day. Ashbeck then presented a proclamation declaring March 18, 2021 as Transit Worker Appreciation Day and thanking Clovis Transit drivers. 

From there, the meeting was open for public comments. Representatives from the United Health Center spoke to notify the council that they are now vaccinating all individuals 18 and older with preexisting conditions and that they will be having a drive-thru at the Clovis location. She also said they are continuing to offer COVID-19 tests to residents, as well as behavioral health services and chiropractic care. Mouanoutoua thanked them for providing drive-thru testing in Clovis in November and December. 

Bessinger made note of correspondence from Judith Sigala and closed public comments. 

Actions

  • Approve minutes from the March 1, 2021 council meeting. Approved unanimously. 

  • Receive and file investment report for December 2020. Approved unanimously. 

  • Receive and file treasurer’s report for December 2020. Approved unanimously. 

  • Approve a resolution of intention to annex territory on the southwest corner of Barstow and Aqua Dulce Avenues to the community facilities district and to authorize the levy of special taxes. Approved unanimously. 

  • Approve authorizing the execution of certificates of assurances for the low carbon transit operations program and submittal of one project for fiscal year 2020-2021. Approved unanimously. 

  • Approve bid award for CIP19-10, sidewalk improvements on West Rialto and Villa Avenues. Pulled for individual consideration due to a clerical error, then approved unanimously. 

  • Receive and file public utilities report for January to March 2020, April to June 2020 and July to September 2020. Approved unanimously. 

  • Approve further continuing the consideration of items associated with the establishment of objective standards for single family residential development. The council originally voted to continue the decision at the March 1 meeting due to concerns about the changes being requested and the unintended consequences it could have, such as parking issues along the street due to decreased garage and driveway sizes. City Planner Dave Merchen and staff recommended this item be continued to a date uncertain to allow for further review. Approved to continue unanimously.

    • The decision would amend standards for the R-1-MD (single family residential medium density) zone district and the general property development and use standards related to parking for single family residential uses.

    • Mike Prandini of the Building Industry Association of Fresno/Madera was in chambers to express his support for the continuance. “We support continuance of at least 30 days to work through the issues that were raised at the March 1 meeting.”  

  • Approve a resolution of the City Council of the City of Clovis approving the issuance and sale of lease revenue bonds by the Clovis Public Financing Authority to provide $12.3 million in financing for the Landmark Square Project on the northeast corner of Clovis Avenue and Third Street. The total bond debt would be $21.1 million over a 30-year period. Flores recused himself due to his financial interest in properties adjacent to the project. Finance Director Jay Schengel presented the item. Approved 3-1, Whalen voted no and Flores abstained. 

    • The total project cost is expected to be approximately $20 million. Clovis Public Financing Authority is issuing approximately $12.3 million in 2021 lease revenue bonds to finance the construction of the 35,000 square-foot senior center that is part of the project. Schengel said there are grant funds and other funds already set aside for the transit center and library. 

    • “It does compete with other general fund projects that were put into place over the years, these are debt payments that were put in place for 30 years and they will compete with other general fund interests,” Schengel said. “These type of bonds are common for capital projects of general community benefit, including this one.” 

    • Schengel said the city received a strong AA- rating on bonds from S&P. Funds will be delivered to the city on April 13 and the bonds have a 30-year amortization and will mature in November 2050. The true interest cost is 3.04% and total debt service is $21.1 million or $715,000 annually for the next 30 years. 

    • Whalen asked about federal government funding coming from the American Rescue Plan and whether it could be used for a project like this. “When we found out the federal government was going to be giving cities a considerable amount of money, one of the things I was considering was whether it made sense for us to continue to go out to finance these projects,” he said. 

    • Schengel said it is a possibility that $18 million will come to the city, which could be used for this project, but said there is also a fire station 2 project coming in the next few months and it might make sense to use those funds on it since interest rates are low and competitive now. “I would like to have the conversation about what to do with the $18 million before we vote to approve this financing,” Whalen said in response. 

    • Schengel said his understanding is that the funds would be coming in two chunks and he’s not sure on the timing of it. 

    • Ashbeck asked Schengel what other bonds/debt the city has outstanding. He said the corporation yard bond is still outstanding and water and sewer bonds, but they aren’t a general fund obligation. “This would be the first general fund type debt in a long time,” Schengel said. 

    • Mouanoutoua asked how this affects the city’s bond or credit rating. “This particular bond wouldn’t necessarily adjust that rating on the city,” Schengel said. “It’s not affecting the city in a negative way.”

    • Ashbeck asked about Madera receiving $22 million and why Clovis was lower. Schengel said it is less because the city is not considered “disadvantaged.”

    • “The reason that we’re able to get that kind of quality of a rating is because of how we’ve been able to handle our finances,” Whalen said. “I’m going to be a no vote on this and the reason is because I would like to have all the options on the table when we have the conversation related to what we’re going to do with the money that’s going to be coming from the feds.”

    • “If the total debt cost is going to be $21 million over 30 years, we’re going to be saving our citizens even more money during that period of time because we’re only going to be getting close to $12 million,” Whalen said. 

    • Bessinger asked if there is a prepayment penalty. Shengel said it does not allow a prepayment for a period of 10 years. 

  • Adjourn to the Clovis Public Financing Authority Meeting to approve a resolution of the Board of Directors of the Clovis Public Financing Authority authorizing the issuance and sale of lease revenue bonds to provide financing for Landmark Square. Approved 3-1, Whalen voted no and Flores abstained. 

    • Mouanoutoua asked about the process. The city attorney explained that they are members of the Clovis Public Financing Authority also, but they must meet separately from the council to approve. 

    • Ashbeck said it is a good question because it happens so infrequently. She said it may be only the second time she has been part of the bond approval process. 

  • Adjourn back to the Clovis City Council meeting to approve the contract extension for Shelli Vinson as a contract extra help fire inspector II. Continued from the March 1 meeting and presented by Shonna Halterman, general services director. Halterman said they are extending her contract so they can continue to recruit for the position, which was delayed due to COVID-19. Approved unanimously. 

  • Approve a resolution accepting and authorizing the submission of the 2020 general plan annual report, including the 2020 housing element annual progress report (APR) to the governor’s office of planning and research and the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). Presented by Merchen. Approved unanimously.  

    • Four general plan amendments were considered and approved in 2020. One amendment to land use amendment to increase residential density in a Bonadelle Homes development. Two amendments to the Shaw Avenue specific plan to address drive-through uses for Raising Cane’s restaurant on Shaw Avenue. One amendment to the environmental safety element to incorporate airport land use compatibility criteria. 

    • Topics anticipated for 2021 APR include summary of annexations, sphere of influence expansion and urban center master planning projects. 

    • Associate Planner Lily Cha said the report must be submitted by April 1.

    • Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) Program requirements are 2,321 very low income, 1,145 low income, 1,018 moderate and 1,844 above moderate for a total of RHNA is 6,328. Total units to date are 7,207 and total remaining RHNA by income level is 3,379. 

      • Whalen asked how the income categories work with density. Merchen said it works out to 20 units per acre for low income categories. 

      • Whalen asked about what the income limits were. Cha said Fresno County has a $70,000 median income for a family of four. Anything between $26,000 to $35,000 is considered extremely low to low income. 

      • Andy Haussler, community and economic development director said it varies based on household size, but a family of four in Fresno County extremely low income is considered $26,020 or less, very low income is $43,150, low income is $69,050. Median income is $86,000 and moderate is $103,550. 

      • Mouanoutoua asked about why these standards only account for new homes, rather than existing homes that are affordable. “If the planning department can somehow capture that, I think that would help us.” Cha said that they do consider the existing housing stock when coming up with the numbers. 

      • “There still is a market where moderate and low income are buying homes and I think that gets lost in this discussion and if we can start to gather that, I think we can start to make a presentation,” Mouanoutoua said. “Moving forward if the planning department can capture that, I think it helps the narrative that, ‘We’re doing all we can, we get no money to help us here because where does the money come from to build low, very low, extremely low, there’s nothing, but yet the market is taking care of some of this as well’.”

      • To which Ashbeck said, “But the point of this is to add new housing stock, I think that is the distinction.” 

      • Flores also commented on the preexisting homes and that there are opportunities for new arrivals in Clovis to have affordable housing. 

      • Cha said the city has 30 housing element programs designed to help achieve affordability and accommodate housing development. 

        • The city applied for a $5 million CalHome grant through HCD in 2020, but it has not yet been awarded. “If funded it would be used for owner-occupied rehabilitation program, mobile home replacement program and the acquisition rehab rehome program for low income households.”

        • The city was granted $1 million for HCD and will start taking applications for low income homebuyers in the near future. 

        • Prior to COVID restrictions, the City provided 34 grants to low income households to correct health and safety related deficiencies. 

        • The city granted $1 million in development impact fee waivers for a 60-unit affordable housing complex. 

        • The city permitted 8 accessory dwelling units (ADU). 

          • Ashbeck asked about expanding the cottage home program to units that aren’t along an alley. Haussler said they have looked at it and are working on it. 

      • “We don’t build any of this, it’s the private sector that comes in because there’s no funding,” Mouanoutoua said. “So maybe we can use it to our advantage, like, ‘Hey, we need help, come help us,’ because every time there’s help it goes to our neighbor to the west and it never comes to us and then we get the negative criticism of not doing anything.” 

  • Approve the annual review and update to the regional housing needs (RHN) overlay district map of parcels and associated list reflecting those parcels that qualify for development as an RHN overlay project. Ashbeck recused herself due to her proximity to a site that has been added to the map. Mouanoutoua also raised a question about his proximity to a site that has been removed. Haussler said he did not need to be recused because they had no discretion about which sites were removed, but he recused himself anyway. Approved unanimously 3-0. 

    • The decision authorized staff to submit six new sites identified on the updated map and list of sites to HCD for including in the City’s RHNA inventory.

    • Haussler said each housing element cycle must show sufficient land inventory to accommodate its housing needs as determined by HCD. 

    • Original map adopted by council in 2018 and must be reviewed annually by the council. 

    • 32 eligible sites were identified and two eligible sites were removed.

    • Butterfly Gardens and Solvita Commons projects along Willow Avenue will add 1,083 units. 

    • The city has identified five sites to be removed due to existing projects already in progress. 

    • Haussler said a public meeting was held about the map revisions, but he didn’t receive any feedback or comments. He said that he did receive an email and phone call from the same person with questions, but no opposition or support to the map.

    • “It feels like this is a bit of an unfunded mandate, where we zone land for…high density that the state is requesting of us and then those people who know the business come in and say this just doesn’t pencil out unless there’s some sort of funding to subsidize it,” Whalen said. “I’m hoping that at some point the state of California is going to open up their eyes to the aspirational goal and the reality on the ground.”  He went on to ask Merchen if there was any movement at the federal or state level that would help, “the development community,” build at the density levels requested by subsidizing it.                                               

    • Merchen responded by saying, “There is a growing realization that the money is needed and there is some money flowing that way, but it is still much less than during the redevelopment era when that was the primary source of affordable housing….Clovis does not typically compete well for those grants. Again it’s one of those things that we don’t have a significant percentage of our population that is disadvantaged so when the grants are given out they typically are given to communities that are more disadvantaged and are not coming to Clovis.” To which, Whalen said, “That seems really odd to me, it’s almost like a catch-22. We’re being asked to build affordable housing so that people who are disadvantaged can take advantage of what the city of Clovis has to offer, which is a lot of really great things for economic upward mobility.” 

In closing, City Manager Luke Serpa gave an update on COVID-19 cases in the state and local area. “We are well past the peak of the surge and dropping,” he said. In Fresno County, adjusted new cases were 12.6 new cases per 100,000 population (down from 16.6 two weeks ago), 5.3% positivity rate, 6.8% health equity quartile positivity rate. The county is still in the purple tier due to the new cases. He said that new numbers will be released on March 16, but that he suspects the county will remain in the purple tier. The county must reach 10 new cases per 100,000 to move to the red tier. 

Serpa said the supply of COVID-19 vaccines continues to be a limiting factor. He said 254,936 doses have been administered in Fresno County. The county is continuing to focus on food, ag, education and childcare workers, plus individuals aged 16 to 64 with specific medical conditions. Transit employees and certain utilities employees were recently added to the eligibility list also. 

In closing, Bessinger said he had a meeting with Clovis Community College. He said they plan on increasing their footprint in the city and that they discussed connecting people through the transit department or with Fresno Area Express (FAX). He said that he told them that they should reach out to the southwest portion of the city where many apartment complexes are located and to students in Fresno Unified School District. 

He said that he and Flores were also on a call with the Veterans Administration and that they were seeking funding again for a clinic in Clovis. He said they are also working on retrofitting their current facility, but if it proves to be too costly they may be interested in moving the entire facility to Clovis. “They said the existing facility is being looked at for its seismic limitations and that there is a potential that, if the retrofit there would cost so much money, they may consider moving their entire facility here and the Veterans Medical Center would be in Clovis, which I think would be awesome,” Bessinger said. “But that’s in the future. Being able to partner the VA Medical Center with every other medical entity out there and the medical education that we have would be pretty amazing.” 

The meeting adjourned at 8:26 p.m. Future meetings are scheduled for March 22, as well as April 5, 12 and 19. 

Summary

  • Approved a map identifying sites for possible high-density, low income housing projects and discussed the city’s low-income housing obligations to meet the RHNA program requirements. Council members commented on the challenge of meeting the low income housing requirements when the city and/or projects aren’t subsidized at the state or federal levels, since developers tell them it doesn’t, “pencil out,” otherwise.

  • The council approved a $12.3 million bond to fund the construction of the Landmark Square project, which consists of a new senior center, library and transit center. The bond will cost taxpayers $21.1 million with interest over a 30-year period. 

  • Further continued the discussion and a decision on revising housing standards for single family residential development that would result in decreased lot sizes, setbacks, garage and driveways. The council originally voted to continue the decision at the March 1 meeting due to concerns about the changes being requested and the unintended consequences it could have, such as parking issues along the street. 

If you believe anything in these notes is inaccurate, please email us at Documenters-admin@thefresnoland.com with “Correction Request” in the subject line.

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