Residents who have been pushing for changes in the area east of downtown Fresno and north of the city’s industrial triangle now have an opportunity to shape the community in the next two to three decades.
“The community members that have been involved in this know It’s not for me. It’s for my kids and grandkids to have resources in this community that don’t exist now,” Grecia Elenes, the regional policy manager for Leadership Counsel, said.
The Central Southeast Specific Plan will set community-driven goals to make changes to infrastructure, improve use of vacant and open spaces and dictate the economic opportunities and business developments in the area for years to come. The CSE plan is intended to play a key role in the future of a culturally diverse, yet heavily polluted, low-income area within the city.
The plan has been in the works for three years and is now open for residents’ responses and recommendations.
Drew Wilson, planning and development supervising planner with the city of Fresno, said it’s “vital” for those who “live, work and play” in Central Southeast Fresno to comment on what they need in their community.
“By no means do I think we got it absolutely right the first time,” Wilson said of the plan draft. “We want to make sure we hear from as many people as possible to get it right.”
The 200-page draft can be read in full on the Planning Department’s website, but here are five things to know about the Central Southeast Plan:
The Specific Plan is community driven
Created in partnership with 17 community leaders who make up the Steering Committee, the Central Southeast Area Plan, which encompasses the area surrounding Fresno Pacific University and the Fresno Fairgrounds, will guide city leaders in addressing the wants and needs of the community over the next 20 to 30 years.
In 2019, the Steering Committee hosted workshops in the community to gather suggestions from those who live and work in the area, Elenes said.
According to Wilson, between surveys, workshops and community meetings, thousands of residents have been involved in the planning process.
The city of Fresno’s General Plan was adopted in 2014, but with more than half a million residents spread out in areas with differing resources, income levels and demographics, specific plans allow for the city to meet the unique needs of residents in its various communities. Wilson said the General Plan called for certain communities to have more specific plans based on their needs.
“The Southwest Specific Plan really set precedent,” Elenes said, referring to a 2017 plan that shifted land use, based on the community’s desire to eliminate industrial zoning near their homes, schools and parks. The monumental plan led to zoning changes that the community is now fighting to protect only a few years later.
Another plan in South Central Fresno was led by residents who wanted to prevent more warehouses in their already heavily polluted area. While the plan could not halt a second Amazon fulfillment center from moving into the area, it succeeded in securing an “unprecedented” settlement agreement requiring a community benefit fund to combat the traffic, noise, light and air pollution that will result from the anticipated construction.
Elenes said the Central Southeast plan comes from Southeast Fresnans wanting autonomy in their own community, much like the residents in South Central and Southwest Fresno. The CSE plan seeks to address concerns about community health, public safety, economic opportunities and a need for open space.
“(It’s a result of) the community consistently asking why we have all these unwanted (land) uses,” Elenes said. “‘What is our built environment? Why don’t we have the same amenities that our neighbors to the north have?’”
When asked if the Planning and Development Committee was concerned about whether the plan will be changed a few years down the line despite what community members want, Wilson said their goal is to create a “solid plan to cast a vision for the neighborhood.”
Central Southeast covers more than 2,000 acres
The Central Southeast Plan covers approximately 2,220 acres between Belmont Avenue and Church Avenue and between East Avenue and Peach Avenue.
The area is home to several major landmarks, including the Fresno Fairgrounds, Fresno Pacific University, the Mosqueda Center and the now vacant University Medical Center campus.
More than 30,600 people live within the borders of the Central Southeast Area, 53% of whom live in poverty, according to the draft CSE Specific Plan factsheet.
Latino and Hispanic residents make up 63% of the area’s population, while Asian and Black residents each make up 13%. The area also has a high number of children, with nearly 34% of the area’s residents under the age of 18, according to the fact sheet.
There are 8 ‘big ideas’ in the CSE Plan draft
The CSE Specific Plan lays out 16 guiding principles, ranging from emphasizing cultural diversity to reducing pollution and protecting environmental health. It also identifies five main focal points — land use and urban design, transportation and infrastructure, parks and open space, economic development, and quality of life.
There are eight actions or “big ideas” proposed to reach the goals of improving conditions within the area.
Make Kings Canyon Road, an area known for pedestrian vs. vehicle collisions, more walkable through updated streetscapes and building facades.
Transform the former University Medical Center campus into senior housing and care facilities.
Create a “regional destination for ethnic food and entertainment” at the Asian Village shopping center.
Build on the Mosqueda Center and Fresno Fairgrounds to create a space for community events.
Turn Orange Avenue into a “main street” with shops, eateries and street improvements.
Transform the Internal Revenue Service building into a tech-centered employment hub, once the IRS vacates the building following the 2021 tax season.
Build new housing opportunities to fill a gap in housing needs.
Develop employment opportunities through a tech park or light industrial facility that would serve as a buffer between neighborhoods and heavy industrial zones.
According to the plan, the community’s priorities include parks and open spaces, healthy food options and affordable housing. The draft envisions the use of vacant spaces to eliminate blight; repurposing of existing buildings, including the UMC campus and IRS building, and major street improvements. Who will redevelop the UMC building remained unclear as of Wednesday’s Steering Committee meeting.
The plan also outlines what comes next, including funding. Although the city can pay for some of the suggested improvements, “no local government can fund all of these initiatives on its own,” the plan states.
You can submit a public comment
To read the full plan draft, visit the Fresno City Planning and Development website. The full draft is only available in English. The goals and strategies, however, will soon be available in Spanish, Hmong and Punjabi, as well.
According to Wilson, the Steering Committee will be distributing “Specific Plan To Go” bags that include summaries of the plan in four languages, highlighters, public comment cards, surveys and a pre-addressed envelope so community members can send in their thoughts on the plan. This process is still in the works.
The city and Steering Committee will also be hosting a series of Zoom sessions in May to answer community questions and receive feedback.
“Let’s just do everything we possibly can to get this plan out to the community,” Wilson said.
There are several ways to comment on the CSE plan draft.
Fill out a survey (that has yet to be released).
Attend a CSE Zoom meeting (more information below).
Return a public comment card or survey via mail.
The public comment period opened April 8 and will end July 8.
There are more opportunities to be involved
In May, the city is hosting four workshops on a range of topics for both the Central Southeast Specific Plan and the Specific Plan of the West Area:
Equity and health, May 4 at 5:30 p.m.
Land use and housing, May 11 at 5:30 p.m.
Parks, open space, and public facilities, May 18 at 5:30 p.m.
Transportation and infrastructure, May 25 at 5:30 p.m.
All four workshops will take place via Zoom. You can register here.
To let Fresnoland know what you think of the plan, fill out the form below. Responses below are not public comment.