Documenter: Heather Halsey Martinez


  • The commission further delayed and continued for a third time a decision on an industrial rezone application pertaining to 92.53 acres of property in southwest Fresno currently zoned for neighborhood mixed-use. Bray said she thought the applicants and the community needed to come to an agreement. In response, Dr. Venise Curry said, “Either you are for the health and the well-being of southwest Fresno families or you are for the disproportionate channeling of air pollution into the lungs of our families, there is no middle ground.”

  • After hearing from several residents in opposition, the commission denied, with a split 2-2 vote, the request to construct an 80-foot new Verizon Wireless mono-eucalyptus telecommunications tower and facility with associated ground equipment at 5747 North Palm Avenue.

  • The commission approved a 42-unit manufactured housing community on the north side of East Tulare Street, between North Fowler and North Claremont Avenues. The development will consist of rental units that are 933 and 1,120-square feet.

  • The commission approved a 66-lot single-family Lennar residential development on the north side of East Church Avenue and the east side of South Sunnyside Avenue. A few residents spoke out that they were told this area would be a six-acre park and expressed concerns that the park had been cut in half and more homes would stand in its place. 

The Scene

The Fresno Planning Commission meeting took place on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. The agenda states that due to the COVID-19 state of emergency, all City of Fresno public meetings are held via Zoom or phone and the council chambers are closed to the public. Meetings are also viewable on CMAC and the City of Fresno’s YouTube channel. 

The agenda items from the last Planning Commission meeting on March 17 were all continued due to a technical issue with an incorrect Zoom link being sent out.

Names of officials:

Kathy Bray, Chairperson (also owner of Denham Resources)

Brad Hardie, Vice Chair (also President of Regency Property Management)

David Criner, Commissioner (also pastor at Saint Rest Baptist Church)

Debra McKenzie, Commissioner (also Director of Administration for Central California Legal Services)

Peter Vang, Commissioner (also Associate at Thiesen Dueker Financial Consulting Group)

Monica Diaz, Commissioner

Vacant, Commissioner (Raj Sodhi-Layne resigned from the commission on Jan. 1, 2021, creating a vacant vice chair position. Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer took office in January 2021 and he will appoint a Fresno resident to fill the vacant seat on the committee.)

During roll call, McKenzie was absent and was not heard or seen on the Zoom call. 

The meeting opened quickly with the Pledge of Allegiance, during which an image of an American flag was shown on screen. 

From there, Bray opened the meeting for commissioner comments. Vang commented on recent anti-Asian hate crimes. “My heart and prayers go out to all those affected,” he said. He said he read that anti-Asian hate crimes have risen 800 percent, but he did praise local efforts to protect the community. Bray agreed that, “our community,” is with him on that. 

Hardie said he had a conflict on items B and C and asked to be recused. Diaz also commented that she had a conflict on item 21-379 and asked to be recused, but it was not on the agenda for the meeting. 

Rina Gonzales, senior deputy city attorney, reminded the commissioners that due to the technical difficulties they had last week, they should not draw any conclusions until they have heard all of the testimony presented during the evening’s meeting. 


  • Voted unanimously to further continue an item from Feb. 3, 2021 to consider an industrial rezone application pertaining to 92.53 acres of property in Southwest Fresno currently zoned for neighborhood mixed-use. The property is bounded by East Vine Avenue to the north, State Route 41 to the east, South Elm Avenue to the west and East Chester/East Samson Avenue to the south.

    • Since the original hearing, a neighborhood meeting was held on March 1. There were 50 participants and 16 community members spoke in opposition. 

    • Staff has received four additional letters in opposition. 

    • Planning Manager Will Tackett asked the commissioners to consider the fact that city staff has not been able to respond to the additional letters in opposition so it may wish to continue the item so that city staff has an opportunity to do so.

    • John Kinsey was on the Zoom on behalf of the applicants. He said that he received a letter from city staff notifying them that they would be requesting a continuance. So he said the people that he had ready to speak today were not on the Zoom call so he asked for a continuance to have the land owners on the call. “I think we’re in the position where we really do need a continuance because the land owners are not here.” 

    • Bray said it sounded like they weren’t ready and would like to continue the item. 

    • Vang said he would like to hear public comments on the item. Gonzales explained that they could hear public comments, but if this item is continued it wouldn’t be until the end of the meeting. 

    • Bray said she would hope that the people who are proposing it, would get directly with those in opposition and come to an agreement. 

    • Diaz proposed continuing the item and Hardie seconded it. It will be referred back to city staff to determine next steps and when the item will be back in front of the commission.

    • “Again, I would encourage the people who are making this proposal to try and work out something with the community that makes sense for everyone,” Bray said. “So hopefully that can happen.”

  • Further continued an item from Feb. 3 to April 21 consideration on a tract map related to .74 acres of property located on the northwest corner of North Van Ness and East Alhambra Avenues. 

    • Adopt an environmental assessment and determination that the proposed project is exempt from the provisions of CEQA.

    • Approve vesting tract map which requests authorization to subdivide the property into condominiums. 

    • Diaz and Hardie both recused themselves from this item due to a conflict. So since they wouldn’t have a quorum, the Commission requested a continuance from the applicant, Granville Homes. 

    • Madelyn Cuellar from Granville Homes said they would wish to move forward with the item since it had already been continued from last month’s meeting. Ultimately, she agreed to a continuance until the next meeting on April 21. 

  • Denied with a split 2-2 vote a decision on a conditional use permit and environmental assessment to construct an 80-foot new mono-eucalyptus telecommunications tower and facility with associated ground equipment at 5747 North Palm Avenue. On the south side of an existing retail/commercial center on North Palm and West Bullard Avenues. 

    • Thomas Veatch presented the item. He said residents in the area had expressed concerns about their property values declining, health concerns and appearance of the project. 

    • He said the applicant, Verizon Wireless, has taken actions to disguise the tower so it will look like a Eucalyptus tree and will be maintained annually. 

    • Kevin Gallagher from Complete Wireless Consulting was on the call to speak on behalf of the applicant, Verizon. He shared a presentation with the commissioners and there were three others on the call to speak on behalf of Verizon. 

      • He said they have been working to improve coverage in that part of Fresno since 2015 and have proposed two other locations for the project, but said there were no industrial areas in the area. 

      • The other locations considered were 732 W. Bullard Ave. and 1080 W. Bullard Ave., but there was not enough space at either location.

      • Also considered 6179 N. Palm Ave. 6281 N. Palm Ave., 1060 W. Sierra Ave., APN 416-341-22 on West Bullard Ave. He said the property owners of these locations weren’t willing to enter into an agreement.

      • The current property at 5747 W. Bullard Ave. entered into a lease agreement in 2020 after negotiating since 2015. 

      • He then introduced Walt Kohls, the Verizon Wireless RF engineer that designed the site. He showed a map showing a service gap in an area between Ingram and Bullard and said it serves 13,000 people.

      • Bill Hammett, a third party RF engineer from the firm Hammett & Edison, was also on the call. He said that a key design factor was that the antennas were located as high as they were to push the signal up. 

    • Alexandria Ramos-O’Casey and other neighbors who live within 1,000-foot radius of the proposed tower spoke in opposition. Ramos-O’Casey said it was not a project that was feasible specifically because she believes it is intrusive. She said that telecommunication companies usually try to avoid residential locations and this location is within 55-feet of homes, yet that is the criteria Verizon used to rule out other possible locations. She noted that it is also within 1,000 feet of Bullard High, several elementary schools and middle schools. “This was simply the location they could push through the quickest,” Ramos-O’Casey said. She said there are more than 100 residents in the area opposed to the tower and that many neighbors did not receive correct notice. 

      • Dennis Stubblefield and wife, Sandra Stublefield spoke in opposition. “We think without a doubt, this is not the place to put this tower,” he said.

      • Gene Maccabee also provided her address and said she concurred with Ramos-O’Casey. As did, Alice Stubblefield.

      • Reuben Lucero spoke in opposition and said he had suggested a location on the northeast corner of Palm and Herndon Avenues where it is all commercial and there are no homes. He came back on the call after his three minutes was up and told the commission that they may have several lawsuits due to decreased property values if the tower is approved. 

      • Bray noted that Criner needed to leave the call soon, but he said he would stay on so they would have a quorum to vote on the item. 

      • Tobaise Brookins also spoke in opposition. “If we could just listen to our residents, we know what’s best for our communities,” he said.

    • In rebuttal, Paul Albritton, outside counsel for Verizon Wireless, said this was not a quick location and that they have been looking for a location for six years that would provide service to 13,000 residents. He said they take the residents’ concerns seriously, but he warned that the commission needed, “substantial evidence to deny,” and under federal law that they can not deny this service. “This site is the least intrusive to provide service to the gap that has been identified,” he said. 

    • Commissioner Vang commented that the common theme among the residents was a lack of communication. He asked if there were any engagement activities with the community. Gallagher said they did have a community meeting on Dec. 15, 2020, but they did not do any outreach beyond that. He said they did hear from a number of people and several of whom spoke today. Criner asked if they responded back to the community members. Gallagher said they considered their initial comments in the presentation today. He said the other site suggested on Palm and Herndon was close to an existing tower. 

    • Criner asked what is the proximity to the schools, Bullard High and Baird Middle School. Gallagher said the nearest school is 1,300 feet away from the proposed tower location. 

    • Diaz moved to adopt the staff recommendation, Bray seconded the motion. Criner and Vang voted no. Diaz and Bray voted yes. Clark said since it is a 2-2 vote, it is a technical denial unless they would like to consider an alternative motion. 

      • Vang said he thinks it could have been approached a lot better and communication with residents could’ve been better. He said he would deny the initial vote, but approve the appeal. It was second by Criner. Diaz and Bray voted no. 

      • Clark clarified that it was a technical denial due to a 2-2 vote. 

      • Criner then left the call at 7:17 p.m.

  • Continued to April 21 consideration of a conditional use permit, a request to establish an alcohol license for a proposed 7-Eleven at 2020 West Shaw Avenue at the northwest corner of West Shaw and North West Avenues.

  • Approved unanimously a tract map related to 11.34 acres on the north side of East Church Avenue and the east side of South Sunnyside Avenue. The property will be subdivided into a 66-lot single-family residential development built by Lennar Homes. 

    • Robert Holt presented the item for the commission. He said the area is surrounded by homes and future development would include a senior community, single-family development and commercial uses on Fowler and Church Avenues. 

      • Holt said the open space requirement will be accomplished by continuation of a trail and shared photos of park equipment, including workout equipment and a single basketball hoop on a paved circle. 

      • Staff did receive an email requesting a full park. Holt said the project is a component of The Oaks Master Plan Area, which does include a park within the subdivision. 

      • Notices were sent only 2 days before the meeting on March 26, 2021. 

    • The applicant, Brian Yengoyan with Citadel Development Group, spoke during the call and said this was one of four remaining parcels and they are working with Lennar Homes as the builder. He said it is compliant and in vested use. He said the park should be completed within 30 days. 

      • He noted that a Sanger High School will be built caddy-corner to this project. 

    • A resident Frank, spoke in opposition and said 4,000-square-foot lots are, “terrible.” He said the park was being built for the existing community and he never knew about the assisted living community being built nearby. “If they want to build regular size lots, that’s fine, but not this mini stuff,” he said. 

    • Dr. Kong Meng Vang said Lennar Homes told them that the full area would be used for a park and that he felt that they were deceived. He also submitted a letter to the commission and noted that they were only notified of this vote a few days prior to the meeting. His wife also spoke saying that Lennar told them they would have a park. She said they recently moved from Elk Grove, Calif., where she said parks are more prevalent. She expressed concern about the elimination and decreasing the size of the park, especially now with social distancing being a factor. 

    • Dora Leal also spoke and said she was informed about a six-acre park, which was reduced to a three-acre park. “The proposed lots are obviously very small,” she said.

    • Lisa Flores said she thought the city should’ve mailed the notices to residents earlier and also asked why the developer hasn’t gone back to the community to have a meeting. She also said that any park less than five acres is useless.

    • Yengoyan responded that the park is three acres with walking trails. He said the park on the corner was not going to be developed because the city did not have funds, so they as the developer moved forward with this park as an alternative. “At no point was the park reduced in any way since it’s approval, if anything we are adding to the park to connect it to the trail system,” Yengoyan said. The homes within the Oaks development will be paying into the CFD for this park. He said they want a high-quality development because they also plan to develop the commercial piece of the development. 

    • Hardie moved to approve the recommendation, Diaz seconded. Hardie, Diaz and Bray voted yes, Vang voted no. 

  • Approved 3-1 an environmental assessment for property located on the north side of East Tulare Street, between North Fowler and North Claremont Avenues.

    • Adopt exemption for the proposed project pursuant to CEQA. 

    • Approve conditional use permit authorizing construction of a multi-unit residential development consisting of 42 detached, single-story single-family homes and a 10 percent reduction to the minimum off-street parking requirement.

    • Thomas Veatch presented the item to the commission. The project includes 933 and 1,120-square-foot manufactured homes. 

    • A neighborhood meeting was held on Jan. 12, 2021. Six individuals from within the neighborhood attended the meeting and four individuals responded to the mailed notice. A letter was received in opposition due to impact to Fancher Creek Parkway and stated that the project was inconsistent with the surrounding neighborhood. 

    • An email was received in response requesting the project be required to donate funds to the elementary school. A call was received in opposition stating adding apartments would cause crime to increase and recommended single family homes on the property instead. 

    • Veatch said they resemble single-family homes, but they have shared parking. He said Clovis Unified School District reviewed the project and education fees would be levied on the project.

    • Tackett said that the fire department had requested that language requiring sprinklers in manufactured housing could be removed.

    • Bonique Emerson from Precision Civil Engineering shared a presentation and said the project would create more than 40,000 square feet of open space, including trail portions and a park. 

    • Ted Moon, project developer, also spoke during the call. He shared a photo of a manufactured home community of Sun Communities

      • He said these homes are built off-site inside a manufacturing facility, which allows homes to be built quicker, more efficiently and at a lower cost.

      • He said it could serve the need for rentals at an affordable price in Fresno. 

      • Skyline Champion, the second largest home manufacturer in the U.S., will be manufacturing the homes, which include a seven-year warranty. Moon said that a professional, local management firm will manage the community. 

      • He noted that the development could eliminate potential homeless camps around Fancher Creek. 

      • He also mentioned an L.A. Times article about the high price of rentals in Fresno, in which Hardie was quoted.

    • Emerson requested to remove Part A, condition 8, because they were originally proposing cottage housing on the site, but they couldn’t make it work on the site because all of them had to face out to the street. She said they went for multi-family housing so that homes could face inward and some would face onto Tulare Avenue. 

    • Vang asked if the developer had experience with manufactured homes. Moon said that he does not have experience as a developer and that his background is in investing. But said he thought there was less risk because these homes were built professionally off-site. 

    • Vang asked about safety and security. Moon said they will install security cameras and ensure lighting is good as well as on-site management.

    • Vang asked Moon to clarify if he planned to rent the manufactured homes and Moon said that yes, that was the plan. 

    • Vang asked if the homes would become affordable housing. Moon said they haven’t, but they are always open to that. 

    • Diaz asked what the rent prices would be for the units. Moon said that other 3 bedroom, 2 bathrooms in the area go for $1649 a month and there are none available. He said these rentals can be less starting at $1,400 and up because he can build it efficiently. He said the implied value of homes would actually be higher by creating a market rate rental community.

    • Tackett pointed out that land-use decisions can’t be made based on whether homes would be rented or owned. 

    • No members of the public spoke in favor or opposition. 

    • Gonzales pointed out that Ivanka Saunders-Hunt was raising her hand during the Zoom call. Saunders-Hunt did wish to speak to make sure the commission had taken into consideration the housing element. 

      • Veatch responded that in the findings, there were housing element findings attached to the document. 

    • Hardie moved to accept recommendations and Diaz seconded. Hardie, Vang, Diaz and Bray all voted yes.

Bray opened the meeting for public comments. Dr. Venise Curry was on the call to oppose the proposed industrial rezone in southwest Fresno and expressed dismay that it would be continued again without a date for scheduling. She asked for the commissioners to examine a letter from the California Air Resources Board, which outlines numerous efforts to address the pollution burden in west Fresno. “The idea that we should just get in a room and work it out, there really is no middle ground on this particular issue,” she said. “Either you are for the health and the well-being of southwest Fresno families or you are for the disproportionate channeling of air pollution into the lungs of our families.” She said that not only was the community prepared to share their opposition, they will be prepared whenever the issue is back before the commission. “So many community members joined and your decision to put it off and continue it for one more meeting or several more meetings, so that indefinite period of time, is disrespectful to the community who has been waiting and doing our due diligence well before this issue came on February 3,” Curry said. She went on to say that this is the third continuance, “the community’s position is clear, it has not changed….please provide a date when this issue will be heard.” Bray thanked her and said she was looking forward to hearing from the community on this. 

The meeting adjourned at 8:17 p.m. Future meetings are scheduled for April 21, May 5 and May 19.

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