Documenter: Heather Halsey Martinez

Here’s what you need to know:

  • At its first meeting of 2022, the Clovis City Council received an update on the sixth cycle housing element and declined to participate in the Fresno Council of Government’s multi-jurisdictional housing element effort. The city’s estimated regional housing needs allocation will be 9,179 with 3,007 being very low income and 1,593 being low income. 

  • The council also approved the appointment of 25 members and guidelines for the citizens advisory committee to evaluate the police department’s funding, operations and staffing levels. Ashbeck voted against the committee saying, “we have lost our way.” They nominated former Clovis School Board President Chris Casado as chairperson of the committee and Clovis Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Newman as co chair. 

The Scene

The Clovis City Council meeting took place on Jan. 10, 2022 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 only Ashbeck and Bessinger wore face masks. California announced a statewide indoor mask requirement that went into effect on Dec. 15. 

Since the last meeting on Dec. 20, Council Member Whalen announced his intentions to run for Fresno County Superior Court judge and former City Manager Luke Serpa retired. This is the first meeting for new City Manager John Holt (former assistant city manager). 

Three people were watching live via Youtube and six attendees were present via Webex. 

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. 

Miss Clovis Caleigh Alday was in council chambers with Miss Clovis’ Outstanding Teen 2022 Kayli Gibbons. Alday told the council about a blanket drive for foster youth. Gibbons spoke about Link Into Learning and a fundraising golf tournament that will also benefit the Make A Wish Foundation. 

Ashbeck presented a proclamation declaring January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. A representative from Fresno EOC was in council chambers to accept the proclamation and speak about human trafficking. They took a photo afterwards with representatives from different organizations. 

Bessinger then presented a proclamation honoring Senior Sanitation Operator Levy Lopez of the city’s public utilities department for his heroic actions helping a man having a heart attack. “I wanted to thank the city for giving me the opportunity and for providing the training and skills,” Lopez said. Flores gave him a challenge coin and he shook hands with all the council members before taking a photo with his family. 

From there, the meeting was open for public comments:

  • A man named Pavil was in council chambers. He said he was homeless and has four children. He shared that he was 32 years old and read a letter about the right to housing. 

13 and 14 pulled. Whalen said he lives within 100 feet of the location of the development. 


  • Approved minutes from the Dec. 6 and Dec. 13 meetings. 

  • Approved amending the city’s 2021-2022 position allocation plan by adding one management analyst position and deleting one housing program coordinator position within the administration department. 

  • Approved rejection of general liability claim on behalf of Victor Ray Vidrio, III who  was injured in an accident. 

  • Approved acceptance for Owens Mountain Parkway and Temperance Avenue roundabout. 

  • Approved bid award for bus bay at the Department of Social Services. 

  • Approved bid award for Sierra Meadows Monument sign to read “David McDonald Park.” 

  • Approved bid award for modular training facility. 

  • Approved bid award for traffic signal pedestrian modifications. 

  • Approved final tract map for a Gary McDonald Homes subdivision located at the northeast corner of West Nees and North Timmy Avenues. 

    • This item was pulled from the consent calendar because Whalen had a conflict of interest since he lives close to it. 

    • Pavil made a comment on the item, but it wasn’t related to the item. He said he just wants everyone to be happy. 

  • Approved annexation of the subdivision on West Nees and North Timmy Avenues. 

  • Received an update on the sixth cycle housing element and declined to participate in the Fresno Council of Government’s multi-jurisdictional housing element effort. 

    • City Planner Dave Merchen and Associate Planner Lily Cha presented the item. 

    • Eighth year for the fifth cycle element adopted in 2016. 

    • The 6th Cycle is due in 2023. 

    • Cha said they did receive information that there would be sight changes to the RHNA requirement of 9,179 total adjusted allocation units. 

    • Whalen said that what stands out to him is the fourth cycle showing 15,383 RHNA allocations and he doesn’t know “why they approved it” and joked that “we can’t get out of it.” 

      • Whalen asked about the density in relation to the income levels. 

      • Merchen said the presumptive density for low and very low income housing is 30 units/acre, but he doesn’t know about the other income categories. 

      • Merchen went on to say that they need to make sure they have enough land allocated for those types of housing. 

        • “In the end we are looking at density as likely affordability,” Merchen said. “So as we build we need to monitor those sites and make sure that they are developed and become available to residents in those income categories.” 

        • “It’s an exercise in futility to suggest that something at 30 units/acre would accommodate low or very low income…unless you have sheds,” Whalen said. 

        • “The concern about taking these presumptive densities tied to affordability,” 

        • Merchen said they can try to make that argument, but that he’s not “optimistic as your city planner that the city and region will be nodding our heads coming to a different conclusion.” 

        • Whalen brought up prevailing wage and if there’s any equivalent for affordable housing. Comparing a $400,000 being a “shed” in the Bay Area compared to a full home in Clovis. 

        • Merchen said there are regional differences, 

    • Mouanoutoua asked when council members get involved. 

      • Whalen said the fourth cycle was determined at the COG level. 

      • Merchen said the process so far has been a staff-specific process. He said the recommended methodology will go through the FCOG board and be formally adopted. 

      • Cha said HCD is looking at the methodology. 

    • Merchen said they received feedback today that the overall regional number is probably going down from 63,000 to 58,000. 

      • One component did have a factor in increasing Clovis’ allocation. 

      • He said they also felt like some of the “high resource areas” have not been represented enough, which would increase the allocations. 

    • Mouanoutoua asked if the northeast sphere of influence was used in determining the allocations. 

      • He clarified that these are new housing units, to which Cha said yes. 

      • “If it’s just all new units that’s very hard to fulfill,” he said. “If Section 8 comes in and gives vouchers in Clovis that should count toward this.” 

      • Cha said HCD considers these new units that are coming in to prepare for future housing needs. 

      • She said they will work with the city’s consultants to see if ADUs or cottage homes can meet RHNA requirements. 

    • Flores asked how many of the units the city has to build. 

      • Merchen said that the total 9,179 don’t have to be “implementable projects,” but that they have to show that they have vacant, available sites. 

      • “If we don’t build a single unit what happens to us,” Flores said. 

      • “Is the city of Clovis responsible for building a single unit,” Flores said. 

      • Merchen said they just have to report it and keep on working toward it. 

      • “The city of Clovis isn’t under any obligation to build a single unit today, that’s up to developers and the market to determine what and when it’s built,” “Our obligation is that every bit of the whole plan is fulfilled.” 

      • “It’s up to California to tell us, ‘Ok, how do we get there,” 

      • “We have no incentive to meet 9,179 that’s their goal,” “Our goal is to have a very smart city that we can service.” 

      • “It’s a fool’s errand to do all this work,” he said. 

    • Mouanoutoua said the state is starting to put in consequences for cities that don’t meet requirements. 

      • Ashbeck asked what the consequences were and he said it could be withholding funds. 

    • Merchen introduced the council to the multi-jurisdictional housing element with Fresno Council of Governments. 

      • Merchen said there are advantages to participating with a group. But they would go from “effectively steering the ship to planning by committee.” 

      • He said it also would be a prolonged process and they would not meet deadlines for grant funding and would have to ask HCD for an extension. 

      • He said a hybrid concept would be to pay for and participate in certain components for the multi-jurisdictional housing element. 

    • Bessinger said that his concern is they would slow the process down and asked if the staff can get it done on their own. 

      • Merchen said they engaged early and have an experienced consulting team. 

    • Flores asked why they would partner with cities that don’t have things in common with Clovis. 

      • Merchen said some of the smaller cities were particularly interested in having the regional project. 

      • He said he was concerned about there being “too many cooks in the kitchen.” 

    • Ashbeck said she was concerned about not knowing what other cities are participating and that they should either be in or out. 

      • “I’m not interested in the partial model, because it’s not a cafeteria,” she said. 

    • No public comments were made. 

    • Whalen said he has found “the city of Fresno to be an unreliable partner” and the county is becoming a more reliable partner. 

      • “If we’re not all in then it’s not a collaboration and we’re not in because it’s not a collaboration with the City of Fresno,” Whalen said. 

    • Flores said, “We’re big enough that we can hire professionals to do the job…and yet we’re small enough in that we’re nimble in that we can take care of business and do it right.” “That’s how we’re better than Fresno and the smaller towns that don’t have the staff that we have.” 

    • The consensus among the council members was to not join the multi-jurisdictional housing element. 

The video stream of the council was cut off, but audio and presentation sharing online continued. 

  • Approved guidelines and the appointment of 25 members to a citizens advisory committee to evaluate the police department’s funding, operations and staffing levels. 

    • City Manager John Holt presented the item and shared the guidelines with the council. 

      • He said Assistant City Manager Andy Haussler will be the facilitator of the committee. 

    • In reviewing the guidelines, the council members asked many questions. 

      • Whalen said he would be asking the Police Chief or whoever leads the committee, why the City increased their budget 70% and they chose not to hire patrol officers? 

        • “How is it that we’ve remained the safest city in the Valley without having enough patrol officers for the last 15 years?” he said. 

      • Flores said he envisioned the committee being “fact-finding, similar to a grand jury.” 

      • Ashbeck joked if she should make a motion to “can this whole thing.” She said she thinks they are so unclear that Andy is doomed for failure. 

        • “I feel like we’ve lost our way on this,” she said. 

        • “The longer we talk about it, the less likely I think it is to happen,

        • “The chances of this group being successful is really small,” she said. “I think it’s a no-win facilitation process.” 

      • Mouanoutoua said he thinks it is still a worthwhile effort. 

      • Whalen again said that he thinks the committee should answer, “how is it that we’ve remained the safest city in the Valley?” 

        • He also wants them to answer, “Why is it with the increase in funding that we haven’t increased our patrol officers?”

    • The 25 committee members include former city council candidates Noha Elbaz and Diane Pearce and former CUSD School Board President Chris Casado. 

      • Flores said he thought the former Chief of Police Matt Basgall should be on the committee, as well as another member of the police department. 

      • Bessinger said he agrees with Whalen that bringing in a former police chief would change the dynamic. 

      • They nominated former Clovis School Board President Chris Casado as chairperson of the committee and Clovis Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Newman as co chair. 

    • During public comment, Clovis Planning Commission Chair Pro Tem Michael Cunningham said he believed “this council is abandoning its responsibility to make tough decisions.” He said that if they are going to move forward, he thinks all the committee members should be Clovis residents. 

    • The council moved the committee forward with a 4-1 vote (Ashbeck voted no). 

      • “It’s a very diverse group of people,” Flores said. “Yes, everyone I see on that list doesn’t live in Clovis, but Clovis is a very inclusive town.” 

Flores opened the meeting for comments by City Manager John Holt. Holt provided an update on COVID cases:

  • Significant uptick after the holidays. 

  • Impact of the Omicron surge on city staffing:

    • Out of 688 employees, 143 have tested positive since March 2020. But between Christmas and now, 25% of the cases have occurred. 

    • 35 since Christmas, 30 new cases since Jan. 1, five today. 

    • 18 off work. 

    • 18 off due to exposure. 

    • An entire department in outbreak status. 

  • The city will be getting tests to distribute at the senior center, but they do not know when they will get the tests. 

  • Holt said that the way the meetings are set up now, they are not in conformance to the new rules. 

  • He said they didn’t sign AB361 so they have to either be absent and not participate in the meeting, or publish their location and have it open to the public. 

    • He said that if they have any technical difficulties with the Webex then they would have to stop the meeting entirely. 

  • Ashbeck said she thinks they should spread themselves out and follow the rules. “We need to model the behavior we expect from others,” she said. 

  • Flores said it’s Omicron, but Ashbeck said she doesn’t care what he thinks.

    • Ultimately Flores said he would distance, but that it’s “not to model” it’s for the “comfort of others.” 

  • Bessinger asked if any city employees are currently hospitalized and was told no. 

  • A public comment was made about a nurse getting fired due to not being vaccinated. 

    • He was told that it was a government mandate that all healthcare workers be vaccinated. 

Flores then opened the meeting for council comments:

  • Ashbeck asked if they could educate citizens about the new laws that took effect Jan. 1, including the new food waste. 

    • Holt said there would be a social media campaign going out soon. 

  • Bessinger said one of the Habitat for Humanities house had a nice Christmas display. 

The meeting adjourned at 9:02 p.m. The next meeting will be Jan. 18.

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