Documenter: Heather Halsey Martinez

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The Fresno Planning Commission went against staff recommendations, who had concerns about eliminating an alleyway, and allowed a Lance Kashian & Co. mixed-use development to move forward at Van Ness Ave. and Stanislaus St. in Downtown Fresno.

  • The commissioners also moved forward development at Copper River Ranch by approving rezones and tract maps for a gated subdivision of 47 single-family homes and another subdivision of 144 single-family homes. 

  • They also approved the election of new Chairperson Peter Vang and current Vice Chair Brad Hardie to maintain in his role. 

The meeting (in full)

The Scene

The Fresno Planning Commission meeting took place on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. Some of the commissioners met in the council chambers, while others joined via Zoom. The agenda states that public comments can still be submitted electronically or via Zoom or call in. Meetings also continue to be viewable on CMAC and the City of Fresno’s YouTube channel.

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)

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

Monica Diaz, Commissioner

Haley Wagner, Commissioner (also insurance agent for the Arthur J. Gallagher brokerage)

Robert Fuentes, Commissioner (also a staff attorney for the U.S. District Court in Fresno)

Hardie, Fuentes and Diaz were in chambers. Vang and Wagner were present via Zoom with their cameras on. Hardie acted as chair of the meeting, he said it was his first time. 

Director of Planning & Development Jennifer Clark and Senior Deputy City Attorney Rina Gonzales were in council chambers.


  • Approved the commission meeting calendar for 2022. 

  • Approved a new chair and vice chair of the commission. 

    • Hardie nominated Commissioner Vang and said he would be “ok” with being vice chair. 

  • As noted in the agenda prior to the meeting, a hearing to consider a Parc West development agreement has been continued to Dec. 1. The project pertains to approximately 160 acres located on the west side of Grantland Avenue between West Ashlan and West Gettysburg Avenues. 

  • Approved a plan amendment and several rezones, tract maps and final subsequent environmental impact report to move forward residential and commercial development known as the Copper River Ranch project, located near Copper River Golf Course in North Fresno between North Friant Road, East Copper Avenues, North Willow Avenue and East Silaxo Road. 

    • Several different rezones from medium density residential to low density residential, medium density to urban neighborhood, medium density to medium high density residential, general commercial to low density residential, etc. 

    • Total project as planned, includes: 3,278 residential units (2,429 single family and 849 multifamily), 254,423 square feet of mixed commercial use, park-n-ride lot with 23 parking spaces, 28.8 acres of park space, 3.3 acres of wastewater treatment plant

    • Enrique presented the item. 

    • Originally approved in 2003 with conditions of zoning. 

    • Approximately 109 acres that were not studied as part of the 2003 FEIR. 

    • Two current vesting tentative tract maps and four future subdivisions maps:

      • Gated, private subdivision included with 47 single family homes on approximately 14.01 acres. 

      • 144-lot single family subdivision on 41.58 acres. 

    • Subsequent environmental impact report studied 109 acres not previously studied, as well as the proposed plan amendments and zones. 

      • No comments received during the 45-day comment. 

      • Did receive one comment letter after the 45-day period from the County of Fresno requesting that they receive dedications for improvements. Also, regarding a roundabout at Friant and Willow, but the County does not approve roundabouts in their jurisdiction so the city would have to maintain it. 

        • Rather than require a roundabout, the City will require a pro-rata fee for that intersection. 

      • Four impacts found to be significant, including aesthetics, air quality, noise and transportation. 

        • He said “significant impacts are common with EIRs.” 

    • On June 7, the Council District 6 project review committee approved the plan amendments and rezones. 

    • Wagner asked how many dwellings it increased, she was told the net was 72. 

    • He said the applicant is also the Parc West developer. 

    • Fuentes asked why they are being asked to approve a rezone for something they don’t have maps on. 

    • Vang asked about the roundabout and what the mitigation is for not having it. 

      • He was told he doesn’t know and the city doesn’t know, but the applicant is being required to pay “whatever their fair share is at that time.”

    • Fuentes asked how many multifamily dwellings there are in Copper River total currently. 

      • He said there were 492 units currently in one of the developments. 

    • Jeff Roberts of the Assemi Group was in council chambers. 

      • He introduced Darius Assemi of Granville Homes, Gary McDonald of Gary McDonald Homes and several other representatives of the developers that were also in council chambers. 

      • He said the actions before them were “fine tunings” of a development that’s been in the works for 20 years. 

      • He said they know of no opposition to the changes they are requesting. 

      • He said Copper River started as a mixed-use development in 2000. 

      • He said the EIR was “getting stale” and several changes needed to be addressed including solar, VMT and other requirements. 

      • The proposed changes include 69 acres. 

    • Gary McDonald said he was one of the principals of Copper River Ranch. 

      • He said they are in “complete approval” of all the city’s recommendations. 

    • No public comments were made. 

    • Fuentes asked if there were any plans to develop parcels as multifamily projects. 

      • Assemi said there are two projects in different phases. One on the golf course of 90 units and another that is approximately 110 units.

  • Approved a planned development permit, which was filed for purposes of waiving certain development standards that prohibit the vacation of alleys for a proposed mixed-use development located at 1510 Van Ness Avenue and L Street in Downtown Fresno. 

    • Jose Valenzuela of the Planning & Development Department presented the item. 

      • He said the existing code prohibits the vacation of alleys in the downtown area, which prompted the development permit application by the applicant.

      • He said the goal for downtown is to reserve alleys for services and buildings should be along sidewalks. 

      • The director denied the planned development application and appealed by the applicant on Oct. 15. 

      • Staff is recommending to deny the appeal and uphold the director’s decision to uphold the denial of the PDP. 

    • Wagner asked how the alley is used now and pointed out the only thing on the street is the Valley PBS building now. 

      • “I see a project that creates more beds for heads and community space,” Wagner said.

      • Valenzuela said the Valley PBS office building has a back-up generator and fire access. The Fire Department said they may need access to that in the event of an emergency and not having a turn around could impact that. 

      • Clark said the development would block off the alleyway entirely for half a block. 

    • Hardie asked if the developer could be responsible for relocating the backup generator for Valley PBS. 

      • Valenzuela said that wasn’t discussed. 

    • Fuentes asked about two other projects in the area being able to vacate alleyways. Valenzuela said the Lede and Lofts were developed prior to the current code that was adopted in 2016. 

      • “From a common sense perspective, this looks like a project that would fit in with the current aesthetics…and provide housing, which is very needed in the middle of a housing crisis,” he said. 

    • Planning Manager Will Tackett said the other projects that were in the alleyway were prior to the development of the Fulton Corridor Specific Plan and area specific plan, which says you maintain alleys and create a “pedestrian-friendly environment” that “doesn’t prioritize the automobile.”

    • Wagner asked about diagonal parking stalls, rather than standard spots along the curb. 

      • Dan Zack with the City of Fresno said that the conversion from parallel to diagonal increases the yield in the number of parking stalls. 

    • Sal Gonzales of Lance Kashian & Co., the developer of the project, was in council chambers. 

      • He said they are “terribly excited” for the project because they know the housing inventory is too low and that they need more communal, gathering space. 

      • He said they have letters of support from Arte Americas, Catalyst Marketing and the Fresno Sheriff’s Department. 

      • He said it would include a dog park.

      • He said they have opened dialog with Valley PBS. 

      • Fuentes said he thinks the project fits in with the development code, but per the development code they need to retain the alleys and parking, as well as prohibit the closure of existing streets and alleys. He asked how they can comply with those. 

      • Wagner said it’s not a “closing of the alley,” it’s more a “repurposing of the space.” 

      • Gonzales said “the only folks walking through the alleyways are folks doing things they aren’t supposed to be doing.” 

    • No one spoke in opposition of the project. 

    • Assemi spoke in support of the project. He said they’ve done eight projects downtown and it is “very complicated” and “very expensive.” 

      • He said alleys don’t get maintained in the city and have potholes and are dark. He said they should dedicate money to them. 

      • His project is across the street from the proposed development and he said their projects are full and there is a waiting list. 

    • A resident named Robert who was a former police officer, retired in 2010 commented on activities that occur in alleyways. He said they would look in alleys for illegal activity.

      • He said prostituion and drug deals happen in alleys. 

    • Hardie moved to approve the applicant and Diaz seconded to use “common sense” and approve. 

      • Diaz said she felt like it’s “just common sense” and that “anyone willing to invest in our city” should be supported. 

      • Rina Gonzales pointed out that they need to make five findings. 

      • In an attempt to do so, Wagner made findings with reasoning. 

    • The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the PDP. 

In closing, Clark congratulated Vang on his new role and that they would be providing him with a script prior to the next meeting. 

Hardie opened the meeting for unscheduled comments and no comments were made. 

The meeting adjourned at 7:43 p.m. The next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 1. They usually occur on the first and third Wednesdays of the month.

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