March 15, 2023 — Fresno Planning Commission

Documented by Ntsa Iab Vang

The Fresno Planning Commission denied an appeal and upheld a conditional use permit for a new Starbucks location at 2840 Tulare Street in downtown Fresno.

What happened: At Wednesday night’s Fresno Planning Commission meeting, the commissioners denied an appeal and upheld a conditional use permit for a new Starbucks location at 2840 Tulare Street.

The new Starbucks will be the largest in the Fresno area at 2,400 square feet and will feature an enclosed solar-covered patio, four electric vehicle chargers, and an enhanced drive-thru queue for up to 17 cars, said Architect Ian Robertson.

The project was appealed by residents of the nearby Huntington Park Condominium Village who cited concerns about the impact of idling cars on the poor air quality of South Central Fresno, health impacts, and that there are already three Starbucks locations nearby: 2325 Kern Street, 1100 U Street, and 3045 E. Tulare Avenue.

One of the residents, Sean Boyd spoke in opposition and asked whether any of the commissioners knew how many drive-thrus have been approved like this between Lodi and Bakersfield and that he believes Planning Commissions throughout the eight counties of the Valley Air District should “take a look at this in a broader, more regional way.”

“While this particular, individual, single facility may not exceed two tons of NOx or two tons of PM10, when you add them all up if these are continually going in throughout the valley then you’ve really got some real air quality issues,” he said. “And of course, reminding you all, that South Central Fresno and downtown are part of the South Central Fresno AB617 High Impact areas.”

Boyd also said that in his conversations with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District they told him that they did not consider PM2.5 particles for this project and that the only way they would be able to is through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which isn’t required due to the small size of the project.

Commissioner Haley Wagner asked Starbucks representatives about the idle time for cars in the drive-thru and was told that the new design of the store and drive-thru queue would decrease the time idling in the drive-thru to less than 60 seconds.

Conflict of Interest: In the past, Commissioner Brad Hardie recused himself regarding a Verizon telecommunications tower that was being appealed by residents of the Huntington Park Condominium Village because it was managed by his property management company, Regency Property Management.

During this meeting, he voted in favor of the Starbucks despite it being appealed by residents of the same condominium complex. Regency Property Management confirmed that they are still managing the complex.

However, prior to discussing the next item about a new car wash, Chair Peter Vang said that Hardie had recused himself, but did not publicly identify the conflict of interest, as required by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

And also: After hearing concerns from commenters about its proximity to Rivendell Community that serves adults with special needs, the Planning Commission continued an item regarding the approval of a car wash facility to its May 3 meeting.

The drive-thru car wash facility is proposed for the northwest corner of East McKinley and North Fine Avenues and is estimated to operate from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Many representatives from Rivendell Community spoke in opposition of the car wash, citing concerns about safety of its clients with increased traffic and the noise of vacuums, which may greatly impact the special needs community it serves. Neighboring businesses also shared concerns that the project will contribute to occasional flooding that occurs in the area.

Up next: The Fresno Planning Commission is scheduled to meet again at 6 p.m. on April 5.

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The Fresno Documenters are a group of local residents who are trained and paid to attend and take notes at local public meetings where officials decide how to spend public money and make important decisions...