Documenter: Heather Halsey Martinez

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Clovis Police Chief Curt Fleming updated the council on the state of the police department. He shared the results of a Police Resource Allocation Study that was recently completed and showed the department needs 32 more officers and a staffing budget of $9.2 million per year over the next five years. He said having fewer patrol officers has resulted in an increase in crime, including a recent double homicide, fatal domestic violence incidents, fatal accidents and quality of life impacts. 

  • After coming before the council for the fourth time, the members unanimously approved the environmental findings on 1.6 acres near Osmun and Baron Avenues. But denied 3-2 the mitigated negative declaration, general plan amendment and a rezone from medium density to very high density residential needed to allow a proposed 40-unit, three-story development. 

  • The Clovis City Council approved seven items on the consent calendar, including raising the appropriation limit due to an error,  rejecting a general liability claim and an application for the CalRecycle Legacy Disposal Site Abatement Grant program in which the city said they found “20 homeless encampments,” which are a source of “growing piles of solid waste.”

The Scene

The Clovis City Council meeting took place on Nov. 8, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. The meeting was made available via Webex and YouTube Live. The agenda no longer states that face masks are required for those who attend in person due to COVID-19 and none of the council members wore face masks. 

Names of officials:

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

Lynne Ashbeck, Mayor Pro Tem (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)

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

Mouanoutoua led the council in the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Ashbeck presented a proclamation honoring Bill Smittcamp, president and CEO of Wawona Frozen Foods, for being named the 2021 Agriculturalist of the Year by the Fresno Chamber of Commerce. She said that “he belongs to us” in Clovis and they wanted to get a “jumpstart” on recognizing him, which the Fresno Chamber will do on Wednesday. He said he thinks he was the youngest Chamber of Commerce representative when he was first married. He said he was “born and raised on a peach farm that never stopped producing” and was joined in council chambers by many family members. He was presented with a sign that says Clovis is the “Peach Capital of the World.”

Bessinger then presented a proclamation honoring “The Buchanan Eight” soldiers from Buchanan High School who were killed in action between 2004 and 2010 in the military and to support the 17th Annual Hubbard-Baro Memorial Golf fundraiser on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2021 at Fort Washington Country Club. Bessinger said he knew several of the men personally and presided over their funerals. “It was an honor to know these young men and their sacrifices to this nation,” he said. He said the tournament began in 2005 and has grown from there to honor all the men. He said the Hubbard Act was passed in 2008. A man who helps organize the event was in council chambers and said they have raised more than $600,000 for the Veterans Hospital. 

From there, the meeting was open for public comments and no comments were made in council chambers or online. Ashbeck introduced someone she referred to as Ms. Taylor and connected her with a member of city staff to address a concern she had shared previously. A letter had been received and was acknowledged by Flores. 


  • Approved minutes from Oct. 18 and Nov. 1 meetings. 

  • Received and filed the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) serving Fresno County quarterly report for July to Sept. 2021. 

    • The contract provides for $40,000 in baseline funding and $10,000 for a medical attraction study to be completed, which allows Clovis to be part of a “regional effort in attracting commercial and industrial businesses.” 

  • Approved adoption of raising the appropriation limit by almost $24 million for 2020-2021 and $45 million for the 2021-2022 annual budget. 

    • In the agenda packet, it says, “due to an administrative error, the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 appropriation limits are required to be recalculated.” 

  • Approved rejecting a general liability claim on behalf of Kayhan Aminian.

    • Aminian filed a claim against the City of Clovis on Oct. 14, 2021 regarding a trip and fall hazard on Clovis and Spruce Avenues. 

    • He claims that he sustained bodily injuries and seeks reimbursement for medical expenses in an amount in excess of $25,000. He alleged that he tripped over an uneven sidewalk located in front of Cottonwood Grove Apartments and sustained injuries to his left arm, left knee, ribs and neck. 

  • Approved authorizing the police department to submit an application for the CalRecycle Legacy Disposal Site Abatement Grant program. 

    • The police department could receive up to $250,000 for the project to fund salaries and benefits, removal equipment and supplies. 

    • In the submitted application, the city said it tracked more than 394 separate reports related to trash or debris of homeless camps and said they found “20 encampments,” which are a source of “growing piles of solid waste.” 

  • Approved authorizing the city manager to execute a work order for a master service agreement on behalf of the city. 

    • This item was not on the posted agenda and Ashbeck noted that it was added on the dias. 

  • Approved waiving formal bid requirements for the purchase of three electric utility carts from Polaris for $61,390, of which $56,113 would be eligible for grant funding. Also, authorizes the submission of a grant application under the SJVAPCD public benefit grant program. 

  • Received a State of the Department presentation by Clovis Police Chief Curt Fleming. 

    • Fleming said he provided a 50-page Police Resource Allocation Study by Etico Solutions, Inc. to the council, which was a staffing study that was recently completed. The last staffing study was completed in 2006. 

      • He said it was a valuable study back then and wanted to use the same company to come and do it 15 years later. 

      • He said some departments look at crime trends to determine staff levels, but he said that could “reward” a department for doing a poor job of decreasing crime. 

      • “We are at bare minimum with a minimum amount of staffing on the streets,” he said. 

      • The company that completed the study took five years of call data (CAD)

      • Found that the department is significantly understaffed in the patrol division. 

      • The study found that 42 minutes of their day is responding to the calls and 18 minutes is proactive. 

      • They found that 18 to 22 additional officers are needed to get to the ideal split of coverage. 

      • The population has risen by 43% and the number of officers budgeted is 4 less (110 then and 106 now). 

      • He said they have had to eliminate several proactive units since 2006, including the gang, narcotics, K-9, mounted and bike units. 

      • He said that although their budget has increased, their costs have increased substantially, including health, general services and PERS. While salaries have not increased at the same rate. 

      • He said his officers are becoming exhausted and when they put out calls for available overtime, they just aren’t interested because of all the mandatory overtime right now. 

      • He said they have one officer dedicated to traffic. 

      • Fleming said they are having difficulty filling optional overtime and he has been unable to promote officers because it would leave them short on patrol staff “on the street.”

    • He said these issues have led to:

      • Double bar homicide

        • “If we were doing the things we were doing 15 years ago, this likely wouldn’t have occurred.” He said they used to do bar checks. 

      • Youth drug overdoses due to less drug education

        • He said they are no longer able to go to every school for education during red ribbon week or otherwise. 

        • Overdoses have increased by 15% and have two deaths this year due to overdose. 

      • Domestic violence

        • Less intervention and support

      • Fatal accidents

        • Have four this year, and had five last year total. 

        • He said they have calls routinely about speeders throughout the city. 

      • Quality of life impacts

        • He shared photos of homeless encampments, dismantled cards and graffiti. 

    • Impacts of growth on the department:

      • Hotels-the industry has doubled in the city in the last 10 years. In the last two years, they have seen an over 200% increase of calls from hotels. 

        • Gun manufacturing has happened twice, human trafficking, fraud, disturbances and vehicle burglaries are common.

        • “They are great for the city and 95 to 98% occupied, we’re like second in the nation in occupancy rates,” he said. “It is an impact on our resources.”  

      • Hospitals are in their top five calls for service location. 

        • He mentioned a VA hospital was coming into the city. “We have a future VA Hospital coming into town,” Fleming said. 

        • Ashbeck noted that the calls are probably for mental health services, which is likely more complicated. 

      • Fresno County Department of Social Services-he said they are watching to see the impact as it is filled up. 

    • He noted that more than 11% of officers have resigned or retired this year alone. 

      • Currently 10% is of retirement age and 26% will be of retirement age in the coming years. 

        • About half of them have resigned to go to other agencies. “In Clovis PD that is not what we’ve experienced in the past,” Fleming said. 

    • He said they need 32 more officers and eight community service officers. 

      • They are budgeted for 106 and need a total of 138 officers. 

      • In the next five years, they need 50 more officers, eight CSOS, 5 PSDS and 2 animal control officers. 

      • He said he needs $9.2 million per year after they ramp up over the next five years strictly for staffing. 

    • “We never recovered from the economic downturn over the last 15 years,” he said. “There’s a result of based on what I’m given of what services I can provide.” 

    • He said that they have reallocated officers from other divisions to patrol since they haven’t grown over the last 15 years. He is recommending that they restaff those areas they’ve lost in the last 15 years. 

    • “I think the situation is so dire that I wanted to get in front of you today to show you this is where we’re at,” Fleming said. 

    • Fleming said they could go to “hotels in the city every night of the week and be busy.” 

    • Mouanoutoua said he wants to get the department to where they can say they are “optimal.”

      • He noted tables on page 11 of the study and asked how they can justify that events have gone down. 

      • Fleming said that 2020 was an anomaly and there was a month when they had virtually no calls. 

      • He said that it may be that people just aren’t calling them anymore due to people moving in from out of the area. 

      • The table shows that events were 87,534 in 2016 and have gone down to 77,311 in 2021. 

    • Fleming said the culture and the type of service they can provide is changing. “We are at a crossroads and we need to make some decisions,” he said. 

    • Mouanoutoua said one option would be adding extra fees for businesses or developments, like the 500 Club, that may generate more calls. 

    • Mouanoutoua asked if they are leaning toward one model that was shared. Fleming said the Pittman schedule is the most efficient, but not the best for the department and employees. 

    • Ashbeck said the only question that matters to her is the citizens’ answer to “what kind of city do we want to live in” and that they are “out of runway.” 

      • She said that she does feel responsible for allowing “this to occur” and happen to the department. 

      • She said they need to find a way to get more funding for the police, which might be charging a greater occupancy tax for hotels and hospitals or something from retail. 

      • Asbheck said they have 64 patrol officers in a city this large, which is unacceptable. 

      • “People move here because they are safe,” she said. 

      • “I think this is a really good call to action for the council,” she said. 

    • Whalen said that they are about to drop from being the safest city in the Valley and how they address that is going back to the CAFER. 

      • He said in 2020 they funded public safety almost $60 million, including both police and fire. 

      • Whalen wondered how money that used to go to salaries is no longer going to salaries. 

    • Bessinger asked how much of their staff was on light duty and Fleming said at one point, it was 17% of patrol staff that was out on light duty. 

      • He asked about mandatory training and how staffing is impacting their ability to train. 

      • He said they are mostly just able to get through the mandatory training and it’s usually done while they work, rather than overtime. 

      • He said they recently switched rifles over to a different firearm and they had to train on them. 

    • Flores thanked Fleming for the report and the leadership. 

      • He said he understands that as a profession, they are going through a hard time. 

      • “Because of the state and the uniqueness of our laws and some of the people and their lack of appreciation for the work we do,” he said. 

      • “The majority of our people love law enforcement,” he said. 

      • He said public safety is the leading role of the government, but funding is the issue here. 

    • Ashbeck said that she sees this as urgent in the short term and suggested they keep a focus on it as a council. 

      • She said they should look at what they can reallocate, possibly an occupancy tax and gather citizens in a room to discuss this.

      • “Their lived experience with all of you is different than ours,” she said.  

    • Bessinger agreed about getting citizens involved because if they “knew how close we are to having some big issues, they would step up.” 

      • He said that the domestic violence issues they’ve had started with the violation of a court order and that after that they become emboldened. 

      • “We’re going to lose the battle and we won’t know it until we’re engulfed in combat,” he said. 

      • He said that he’s had people demand that they “defund the police department.” 

    • Mouanoutoua said that new families come for the school district and they stay because it is safe for their families to use the trails and parks. 

      • He said that Fleming’s presentation should be shared with citizens and that they needed to act on this “yesterday.” 

    • Whalen said that if he was in charge, he would want to have more staffing at the investigation level and staff to come in and testify because that is what helps them at the DA’s office. 

      • He said that citizens should come in, but they are going to wonder when they hear that they’ve put 80% more into the public safety budget. 

      • He said ⅔ of the citizens voted against the last sales tax increase and he was the only council member opposed to that then. 

      • He said they need to investigate why they have put 80% more into public safety and why that isn’t being felt in the services. 

    • Flores agreed saying “the numbers don’t add up.”

    • City Manager Luke Serpa said that they would look at establishing a citizens committee starting next week. 

  • Approved submitting the California Water and Wastewater Arrearage Payment Program Application for $710,000. The funding is intended to reimburse water agencies with delinquent residential and commercial customer accounts for debt accrued between March 4, 2020 and June 15, 2021.

    • Deputy Finance Director Jeff Blanks and Assistant Public Utilities Director Paul Armendariz presented the item. 

    • The City has identified approximately $710,000 in water-related residential and commercial debt and has brought forward this item to receive authorization to apply for funding to cover this amount.

    • 3,500 accounts are delinquent and approximately $1.8 million in total debt. 

    • State received and allocated $985 million in federal funding to respond to the delinquent balances. 

    • Ashbeck asked if they still try to collect the debt from residents. Banks said it offsets their debt so they wouldn’t try to collect service charges. 

    • The amount that they are reimbursed would be forgiven for customers. 

  • Approved environmental findings but denied 3-2 the mitigated negative declaration and amending the general plan to redesignate 1.6 acres near Osmun and Baron Avenues from medium density to very high density residential and rezone to allow a 40-unit complex. 

    • Senior Planner George Gonzalez presented the item.

      • He said they did provide correspondence regarding this project and it has been shared with the council. 

    • Under the existing general plan designation, the project site could support up to a maximum of 11 residential units. 

    • A total of 40, two bedroom, two-bath units within two separate three-story buildings. Will include 80 parking stalls and will not be gated. 

    • It is the fourth time this project has come before the council. Project was brought before the council in March 2020. At that time, the council requested a traffic study, which was completed in July 2021. It was then continued to allow the applicant to continue working with neighbors. It was brought to council again in Sept. 2021 and continued again to update proposed site plans. 

    • Gonzalez said that two neighborhood meetings were held in early 2020 and that they have done more community meetings recently, the last one occurring last night. 

      • He said it “got contentious” and “words were exchanged between the residents and applicant.” 

      • He said there are still concerns about the project being three stories and overflow parking on the side streets. 

    • Mouanoutoua asked if they could put more restrictions on street parking, perhaps putting no overnight parking. The City Engineer said they typically don’t put restrictions on parking in neighborhoods. 

      • Gonzalez said he wasn’t at the meeting, but Ricky, a deputy city planner, was there. 

      • Ricky said there weren’t supporters there, but they were there for almost two hours to discuss concerns with the project. 

      • Mouanoutoua asked if residents were still concerned with moving the trash enclosure, and Ricky said that resident was satisfied. 

    • Bessinger asked them to bring up the Google Earth image on the property. 

      • He said the project in combination with whatever goes in to the west of it, will be an issue, because they will be funneling everything through this neighborhood. 

      • He asked if they factored the Senior Center and Transit Center into the traffic study. 

        • He was told some of the traffic would go through the site. 

    • Ashbeck also asked about the traffic flow. 

      • She asked how a project of 40 units with potentially two adults per unit, could only generate 15 trips during the morning and 18 in the late afternoon. 

      • Gonzalez said that was during peak hours. They were clarified to be using the wrong numbers and that 19 in the morning and 23 in the evening were correct. 

    • Whalen said that this project isn’t part of the RHNA overlay and that “we can do whatever we want.” 

    • The developer’s representative Dirk Poeschel was in council chambers. 

      • He said they met the parking standards of the city. He said there will probably be some parking on the street, but they will have an on-site manager that can be called if neighbors are having issues. 

      • He said they submitted a comprehensive site plan with large trees to staff. 

      • He said of the single-family homes that are on Baron Ave. they would be about 200 feet away. 

      • He said the development is the same height as a single-family home that is 32-feet tall. 

      • He said rent will be $2,400 per month for a two bedroom, two bathroom unit. 

        • He said it would not be considered affordable. 

    • Whalen said it seems like a lot of work and frustration for a project. He asked why they continue to pursue it despite the frustration they’ve experienced. 

      • He said they have agreed to put in sidewalks, move the trash enclosure and buildings, but still the community is not in support of it. 

      • Poeschel said that the client bought the property because they believe there is a “tremendous need” for this project. 

      • He said it’s almost a third of the VMT threshold. 

      • Whalen said they haven’t dropped it to two stories, which may appease some neighbors. 

      • But Poeschel said that it “doesn’t work” to make it two stories, but because of the land costs and construction costs have gone up tremendously since they started. 

    • A resident in the neighborhood said he appreciates the changes they’ve made, but the height in the neighborhood would be “monolithic.” 

    • Another owner in the neighborhood was in council chambers, he said he owns a rental property across the street. 

      • He said the project is “huge” and increasing the density by six times on that property. 

      • He said everyone has been talking about the “Clovis way of life” and this just isn’t the right project, but it could be if they reduced it to a single or two stories. 

    • Stacy Brinkley was in council chambers and said she owns a multi-family unit in the area. 

      • She said her concern was the parking and that it could be three to four cars per unit. 

    • Another resident was in council chambers. She said she is concerned about her property value and the height of the project. 

    • Another resident that lives on Sierra Ave. was in council chambers. She said that the impact of a three-story building on a neighborhood will have a negative effect on the neighboring property values. 

    • Another resident was in council chambers. He said he appreciates the council’s questions.

    • Another resident expressed concerns in council chambers. She said that the developer made her very uncomfortable the night before and had been combative. She said her house will face that property directly. 

    • Another neighbor, Robin Defalco, said a cottage or two-story development would be much better for the area. 

    • Whalen said he believes the council should deny the general plan amendment. He said the developer’s behavior in the council chambers today was representative of who they would be dealing with. 

    • Ashbeck said that she feels “very protective” of this neighborhood and that it’s a “special enclave” with “historical value.” 

      • She said the neighbors are saying that something in the middle would’ve been acceptable and they could’ve compromised. 

      • She said the “tall tree promise” isn’t a fair promise to the neighbors because they won’t see the benefit of those trees for a decade or more. 

    • Bessinger said that at this point, he feels like he’s piling on. He said he appreciates what the neighbors are saying and that it isn’t a “not in my backyard” complaint. 

    • Mouanoutoua said he feels like the developer abided by everything and addressed the original concerns. But now, the concerns are focused on the height. 

    • Flores said that “Old Town Clovis has become a gem” and this would bring professionals to the neighborhood and an area that has been an “eye sore.” 

      • He said he was ready to vote yes to the project the first time it came here. 

      • He said if they can “amend the constitution, they can amend anything,” regarding the general plan amendment. 

      • “We’re going to be sorry that this project isn’t going to be there,” he said. “Our professionals are saying we should approve this for a reason.” 

    • Approved 5-0 the environmental findings, but denied 3-2 the other requests with Flores and Mouanoutoua being the no votes. 

Flores opened the meeting for comments by City Manager Luke Serpa. Serpa gave an update on COVID cases and shared a chart showing trends. Serpa said they received a request for Clovis specific data, but it was difficult to get the 93619 and other data. He said hospitalizations have shown a strong upward trend. 

Flores then opened the meeting for council comments:

  • Mouanoutoua said the ACA met again last week regarding local control. 

  • Whalen said Oroville is now a “constitutional city,” so staff could look into that as an option for when “we say we’re done with you state of California.” 

  • Bessinger said he called into a redistricting meeting and that Clovis would be split and would be the only incorporated city in Fresno County that is cut out. “It’s a very poorly managed and thought through district,” he said. “I don’t think it serves the citizens of Clovis well,” he said. 

    • He said there were people in Bakersfield speaking out against it also. 

    • “This is nonsense,” he said. 

  • Flores said they need to send a letter quickly, but “it can’t be political.” “We should be with similar communities…not way down in Bakersfield,” he said. 

The meeting adjourned at  9:34 p.m. The next meeting will be Nov. 15. 

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