March 6, 2023 — Clovis City Council
Documented by Rachel Youdelman
What happened: Traffic, parking, and changing the look of the neighborhood were among the concerns Clovis City Council members cited for effectively rejecting the development of a 12-unit, multi-family apartment building on Monday night.
The infill project was brought forward by local developer, Arman Zakaryan of Stallion Development and Construction, for a one-acre vacant lot that sits along Alluvial Avenue, east of Sunnyside Avenue, in an area designated as low density in the city’s general plan.
Although the planning commission approved the project unanimously on Jan 26., the council voted 3-1 to deny the general plan redesignation from low density to medium-high density, but will allow the project to come back to the council for review within a year.
Three neighborhood meetings have been held, at which concerns such as fears of increased crime, traffic, and noise were expressed by residents and mitigating remedies were offered.
The proposed building as designed is 25 feet high, will be bordered by a privacy fence on the sides facing other houses, and will include 5,200 feet of open space. There are 26 parking spaces and there will be storage space inside the garages.
Councilmembers Lynne Ashbeck, Matt Basgall and Drew Bessinger all voted to deny the request, while Councilmember Vong Mouanoutoua was the lone vote against the denial. Councilmember Diane Pearce was absent.
Councilmember Bessinger, said he was concerned about parking, especially if “college students” or “people from the California Health Sciences University” moved in and were “double-bunking,” since the two-bedroom apartments would rent for $2,500 to $2,800.
(Bessinger has previously recused himself from voting on an item near the Dry Creek Canal, which runs near the project.)
Councilmember Mouanoutoua supported the project and asked when the last such project was denied. Dave Merchen referenced a proposed two-story development that was denied by the council in November 2021.
He asked what could be built without the need for a public hearing and Senior Planner Lily Cha replied that two single-family homes would be permissible, each with an accessory dwelling unit (ADU).
“We have to support applicants who come forward with a product like this,” Mouanoutoua said. “People deserve a chance to live in our great city.”
Basgall said he was “all for” multi-family buildings, but that he also felt responsible to the “people who were already there” and didn’t want to change the zoning on one lot.
Ashbeck said that infill projects were “always a challenge” and was concerned about the aesthetics of the project looking like it was “dropped in.”
“There’s nothing about this project that says ‘welcome to the neighborhood’,” she said adding that “we have an obligation” to make infill projects look like they belong.
Retail redevelopment: The council approved a $25,000 contract with Kosmont Companies to provide a “fiscal impact and economic benefit analysis” for the redevelopment of existing retail space in the Shaw Ave. corridor.
The Kosmont representative said that much of the available retail space in Clovis is along the Shaw Ave. corridor and that about 700,000 square feet could potentially be “re-imagined” as “blended-use” space that encompasses residential, office, hotel, and industrial in one location.
The consultant also emphasized how important it is to develop multi-family, higher density housing units. He noted that since 2020, there have been seven new projects built in Clovis: five market-rate buildings totaling 877 units and two affordable buildings totaling 135 units.
During public comment on this item, Dennis Prindiville, a former mayor of Clovis, spoke. He said he was a trustee of the Sierra Vista Mall and he wanted copies of the last five projects similar to what was under discussion. “You don’t want three nuns sitting in the audience and arguing against low-cost housing,” he said.
Pre-zoning: The council voted 4-0 (1 absence) to initiate a prezoning of Heritage Grove property within the area of Shepherd Ave. on the south, Willow Ave. on the west, the Enterprise Canal on the north, and the Peach Ave. alignment on the east and to authorize staff to prepare an annexation application for the area.
City Planner Dave Merchen said that Clovis has plans to annex and develop property along the Willow Ave. corridor and has been negotiating with property owners and real-estate developers.
Since the area in question will contain residential development which will count toward state housing requirements, city staff recommended the council initiate the prezoning process and annexation process now, because annexed parcels should be counted in the city’s housing inventory before the end of 2023.
During public comment on this item, Shawn Beaty, pastor at Clovis Hills Church, said that he wants the site of his church to be annexed, but there is a problem with the source of his water not being in the appropriate jurisdiction.
Bill Smittcamp spoke and said that his family owns some of the property in question. The Garfield Water District doesn’t have the right to transfer water rights to “y’all,” he said, adding that he was on the Garfield Water District Board. He asked, “Can’t you fix this?” and said, “We can’t allow our community not to grow because of water.”
Scott Redelfs, Public Utilities director, said that water for property north Enterprise would have to be found and that LAFCo may not allow annexation of land without a water source.
Director of Planning Renee Mathis said that the area north of Enterprise had been prezoned in 2019 and suggested that perhaps in the spring, the Garfield issue could be resolved.
Up next: The Clovis City Council will meet again at 6 p.m. on March 13.