March 20, 2023 — Clovis City Council

Documented by Rachel Youdelman

Here’s what you need to know

  • Several residents appeared in person to comment about a “halfway house,” which they considered dangerous, in their neighborhood. A special neighborhood meeting to address the issue will take place with city staff on Wednesday, March 22 at 6 p.m. in council chambers.
  • The council accepted the 2022 General Plan Annual Progress Report (APR), including the 2022 Housing Element APR, and will submit it to the Office of Planning and Research (OPR) and the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) by the deadline of Dec. 31, 2023, after staff incorporates council and public comments.
  • Patience Milrod, the attorney who represents the plaintiff in the housing lawsuit which Clovis lost and is now appealing, was present to say that the draft of the Housing Element APR contained a “material omission.” The number of housing units by which Clovis is deficient in providing could change, depending on the outcome of the appeal, and needed to be flagged, she said.

Council and Staff

Lynne Ashbeck, mayor

Vong Mouanoutoua, mayor pro tem

Drew Bessinger, council member

Matt Basgall, council member

Diane Pearce, council member

John Holt, city manager

Andy Haussler, assistant city manager

Scott Cross, city attorney

Karey Cha, city clerk

Planning Commission

Alma Antuna, chair pro tem

Brandon Bedsted

Mike Cunningham, chair

Amy Hatcher

Paul Hinkle

The Scene

The Clovis City Council met on Mar. 20, 2023, a joint meeting with the Clovis Planning Commission. Ashbeck opened the meeting on time, City Clerk Karey Cha called the roll; all were present. Mayor Pro Tem Mouanoutoua led the flag salute. The meeting was three hours long and included a detailed presentation about the Sixth Cycle Housing Element. Aside from Pearce complaining vociferously about “onerous” and “impossible” state housing requirements, the meeting was marked by comments from a group of residents who called a “halfway house” in their neighborhood dangerous, especially to children. Meetings are open to the public; residents may attend meetings in person at the Council Chamber, 1033 Fifth St., Clovis, CA 93612, or online via Webex

Public comment may be made in person at the meeting or in writing here (scroll down the page to “submit public comment”). Members of the public may also comment during a meeting by phone (via Webex) — call the city clerk at 559-324-2060 before 4 p.m. the day of the meeting to schedule your comment. Videos and agendas are available here. The next meetings will be April 3, 10 and 17 at 6 p.m.

Public Comments regarding issues not on the agenda. One person, Cheryl Medrano, representing the three families displaced by the Jan. 3, 2022, city water-main rupture on Sunnyside Avenue, spoke about main points she and other victims of the water damage were requesting and acknowledged that the council would address the issue in its closed session that evening.

 “We are so tired of this,” Medrano said, adding that they did not want to litigate and that she hoped they could resolve the issue without doing so.

Brent Burdine of Clovis spoke next and announced an upcoming Vietnam veterans event on March 29. Ashbeck thanked him and said, “We don’t have a gold-star city logo for nothing.” Burdine is a frequent commenter at Fresno County Board of Supervisors meetings, where he typically makes false claims about the 2020 election and the pandemic.

The next group of speakers, beginning with Dr. Nathan Inan, complained about what they called a “halfway house” in their neighborhood and gave conflicting bits of information about its occupants — were they psychiatric patients or felons? It was unclear. Inan described a knock on the door at 1 a.m. Instead of asking who was there, he got his gun out. Inan called the police who arrived and told Inan the man at the door was from a halfway house behind the Inan family home. Somehow Inan determined that the man was a “level-6” sex offender, though he presented no evidence and though per California law there seem to be only three tiers. Inan said there were 10 people living in the halfway house, all just out of jail. Neighborhood parents were enraged, he said. He made other claims about the management of the house, that they were not complying with police. He wanted to know if the residents should have been notified? Shouldn’t the house be licensed? How can it be so close to a school?

Present were five more residents of the same neighborhood who voiced similar complaints, and one person who phoned in to say she was a former probation officer in Idaho with relatives in the neighborhood in question. She warned that “high-risk” sex offenders have high recidivism rates and wanted to know how this person, whom she called a high-risk offender, was approved to live in the neighborhood. Another resident said that a police officer told him that “you got 20 schizophrenics living there,” and when asked what could be done about it, the officer said, “I don’t f—— know.” The resident wanted to sell his house, but who would buy it so close to the offending house?

Ashbeck said she saw the comments on this issue escalate on the Nextdoor app and discussed holding a community meeting about it. She said they received several letters regarding the house, as well as backyard chickens

Ashbeck said, “We hear you, Wednesday night in this room,” referring to a meeting already scheduled for Wednesday March 22 at the council chambers, to which residents of the neighborhood were invited. Police and other city officials would also attend, she said. “We want to help you solve the problem with the tools we have; we’ll lay it out factually,” she noted.

The final public commenter of the evening was a man in a black cap who did not give his name. A retired truck driver, he had sent a photo to the council of what he considered a badly parked truck. He complained about other truck drivers making what he considered dangerous turns in Old Town. Next, he talked about his distaste for seeing signs around town which said “F— Trump” or “F— Biden.” “We’re all Americans,” and “it’s not ‘kosher,’ ” he said, no reason for it. Was it against the law? Ashbeck replied that “people have no manners.” Bessinger said that “you can bet the driver of the truck is not married,” referring to the photo of the parked truck, because “his wife” wouldn’t have permitted it.

Agenda Items 1-6, Consent Calendar These are items considered routine and are decided with a single vote. Passed 5-0. None of these items were pulled for discussion.

Agenda Item 7 The council voted 5-0 to accept the 2022 General Plan Annual Progress Report (APR), including the 2022 Housing Element APR, and submit it to the state’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) and the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). Dave Merchen, city planner, and Lily Cha, senior planner, gave a presentation.

The current general plan was adopted in 2014 — its main elements include

  • Land use
  • Economic development
  • Circulation
  • Housing
  • Public facilities and services
  • Environmental safety
  • Open space and conservation
  • Air quality

Cha and Merchen explained that the purpose of the APR is to show how land use decisions relate to the goals of the general plan, let both the public and local government know how the general plan is being implemented, and to identify adjustments or changes to the general plan — they also noted that the housing element was the most important component of the general plan’s APR. The housing element must be updated every eight years; the general plan progress report (including the housing element APR) is required annually and is due April 1.

Cha said that the housing element APR documents the city’s progress in carrying out housing programs toward the 5th cycle (2015-2023) regional housing needs allocation (RHNA), which is 6,328 total. The total is made up of parts based on income category (very low income, 2,321; low income 1,145; moderate income 1,018; above moderate 1,844; total RHNA, 6,328) — the city is supposed to zone thus for housing.

Cha explained the relationship between housing density and income category: the lower the income, the denser the housing. For example, lower-income sites allow for 20 units of housing per acre, and above-moderate income sites are single-family houses. She explained affordability criteria and RHNA progress between 2015 and 2023. Cha said that the city has met housing requirements for numbers of moderate- and above-moderate income levels but that 2,314 for very-low income and 978 (total 3,292) for low income remained to be provided.

Last, Cha explained that there were 20 housing element programs, such as zoning code amendments, homebuyer assistance, code enforcement, affordable housing incentives, rezoning for RHNA, etc. She did not explain to what extent any of these programs are used.

Discussion and questions from council members ensued. Most of the questions were asked by Mouanoutoua and Ashbeck, with a couple of questions from Basgall and Bessinger. Most of the discussion was about the housing element and how zoning for affordability and actually building “affordable” housing differed in terms of what is required by the state. Bessinger asked, when building affordable housing without subsidies, how could someone have a return on their investment? Basgall said that nothing built would come close to the affordability guidelines, even if the land is zoned for it. “We have no control over the rent,” Basgall added.

Cha said that the city has programs to “incentivize” real estate developers; Ashbeck cited the Butterfly Gardens project as an example.

Mouanoutoua asked about funding sources for affordable housing; Assistant City Manager Andrew Haussler gave a few examples.

The only comment Pearce made was to complain that the requirements came via the state government. “The totality is a state-driven situation?”, she asked Cha. “All these onerous mandates from Sacramento. . . are we supposed to just take this? It’s impossible. . .” she complained. Cha gave a nervous laugh. Ashbeck said, “That’s not how I’d describe it. It’s our job to make it as possible as we can, so as many people who want to can choose to live here.”

Pearce replied, “I just want to make it clear that other jurisdictions make it difficult for us,” but she didn’t specify which or how.

Ashbeck laughed and said, “I may not see it that way.” She added, “Probably both are right.”

Mouanoutoua raised the issue of using old housing inventory as affordable housing. He said they should try to change the rule which limits it currently to new construction. He then said he was on “the housing and development committee,” but he neglected to say of what entity.

Public comment was opened on the matter. Attorney Patience Milrod was present to speak. Milrod represents Desiree Martinez, the plaintiff in the affordable-housing lawsuit which Clovis lost and is now appealing. Milrod said that Merchen and Cha’s presentation included a “material omission.” The number of housing units by which Clovis is deficient in providing needs an asterisk, because it could change, depending on the outcome of the appeal. “I hope you are making a contingency plan,” she said.

Merchen said that the carry-over program had been accepted but that he would consult about the need for a footnote.

The next comment was made by Des Haus, a candidate for City Council in the last election. She said that there were 14 housing bills being discussed in the state Legislature now, as well as a state constitutional amendment, ACA 10, which establishes a right to housing. “Get involved and keep up,” she suggested. Ashbeck remarked that she thought Mouanoutoua hears about those bills. But if that was the case, why didn’t he mention any of them, particularly the constitutional amendment which would guarantee housing. None of the other council members expressed any interest.

At this point, about 7:05 p.m., the council adjourned to the joint meeting with the Planning 

Commission, whose members took seats at a table arranged in front of the dais.

Agenda Item 8 The council and the planning commission received a presentation about the 6th cycle (2023-2031) housing element from Chelsey Payne of Ascent Environmental, Inc., a consultant hired by the city to help prepare it; Senior Planner Cha introduced her. There was discussion throughout the presentation; no vote was required. Comments were to be incorporated into the draft.

Payne covered these areas:

  • Housing element overview
  • Recent trends and housing needs
  • Sites inventory and housing capacity
  • Fair housing assessment
  • Housing plan
  • Next steps

Payne explained that the housing element is a plan to meet housing needs of all residents. The plan must allow for the city’s fair share of regional housing needs and must be updated every eight years. The deadline for submission of this version of the housing element is Dec. 31, 2023. The HCD is required to review and certify the submission. The draft is available for review by the public between March 13-April 12. There were community workshops in August and March.

Payne discussed population growth, housing stock, house value trends, rent trends, income levels and affordability and fair housing, as they are factors to be considered when planning. She showed a variety of maps based on income patterns, ethnicities, ethnically concentrated areas of affluence (Old Town is poorer and less white; newer neighborhoods to the north and east are higher income and more white). One map showed “access to opportunity”— Payne said that “Clovis is composed entirely of high and highest-resource areas,” meaning that access to grocery stores, services, schools, parks, etc., was distributed evenly throughout the city. Ashbeck said that it was right that the entire community has such access. Payne said that jurisdictions with higher access to opportunity are granted higher RHNA numbers, and Ashbeck thought there were “so many things wrong with that.”

Payne described the process by which the RHNA is determined:

  • HCD makes regional housing needs determination (RHND)
  • FCOG (Fresno Council of Governments) prepares methodology (the RHNA plan) to distribute the total RHND (58, 298)
  • Clovis’ total RHNA for 2023-2031 is 8,977

By income level, a total of 4,475 housing units were needed for the 2023-2031 RHNA, said Payne, about a 30% increase over the previous RHNA.

Payne then went through a very detailed set of goals, policies and implementation programs. One goal, for example, is to “Further Fair Housing;” related programs are providing vouchers for portions of market-rate rent, addressing homelessness and special-needs housing. Bessinger called special-needs housing “low barrier,” meaning few restrictions are imposed on people with problematic behaviors, such as drinking and taking drugs. Payne pointed out that such housing also provides “enriched services” to address those issues. Bessinger asked another question about legal implications to which Payne replied, “I’m just a housing planner.”

Mouanoutoua wanted to know if special-needs housing was “mandated by the state.” Payne replied that there is “not a bright line,” but that the city should ask what they have to do to be compliant. She was trying to put forward the best plans for Clovis while meeting state requirements.

Council members asked questions while members of the Planning Commission said little. Bessinger wanted to know if the affordable apartment complex, Solivita Commons, “counted” toward the RHNA. Payne said that it could count toward the RHNA, but it wasn’t clear how much. Bessinger pressed: Does it count or not? Is it in violation? Payne said it was “helpful” in meeting RHNA. Bessinger said “helpful” means nothing “for people who want to beat us up.” “Even after Butterfly Gardens, we’re not compliant,” Bessinger said. Butterfly Gardens, however, is just 75 units.

Payne reviewed the consequences for non-compliance:

  • Ineligibility for various state funding programs
  • General plan inadequacy; loss of permitting authority
  • Litigation
  • Builder’s Remedy (must approve certain residential developments regardless of zoning)

Ashbeck remarked, “Oh, we’re going to get into compliance.”

Bessinger asked how members of the public could comment — Payne said they should contact staff by phone or email. Bessinger seemed to be referring to state employees who would be reviewing the draft, because he commented, “How does the public comment to a ‘faceless bureaucrat?’” Payne said comments from the public would be included in the documents submitted to the state.

Ashbeck remarked to the members of the Planning Commission, “You’re so quiet.” Then she suggested that they were “exasperated.” She then said that there was no room in the process for localities to express what they want.

Mouanoutoua and Bessinger praised Payne’s work on the presentation. But regarding the substance of the plan, Bessinger said that we were seeing “a stick and no carrot.” Nevertheless, he said that he thought “we can accomplish this.”

Pearce complained at some length. She began by laughing and saying that she “echoed the sentiments of the impressiveness” of the report which was “incredibly tedious” but “put together in a way that can be absorbed and potentially comprehended,” and was quite a feat. She couldn’t even imagine the hours that went into it. She felt she needed to say, “I’m sorry you have to do that.” She felt the discussion was like the recent one about the “electrification of buses” — she meant the zero-emission conversion of the Clovis transit fleet – which was simply “all of this stuff” the city was “supposed to do” with no recognition of the “lack of resources to accomplish it in the manner in which it’s intended.” With “all these regulations and things,” she said, “we’re not even allowed to consider” how we prefer to represent the community. “We are looking at what the state tells us we are required to do and sign off on it.” 

She was “in an uncomfortable position” because now how could she go back and tell “these people” that this community could “continue in a path that really had everyone together and in our own best interest.” She was very frustrated, she said. “Also, again, kind of with the electrification concept, let’s just say we build every single unit that’s in this element. What happens when the governor tells those people that they don’t get to turn their lights on or run their washing machine, they don’t get to have their refrigerator going . . . ,” she went on, complaining about the state government in detailed imaginary scenarios. Finally, she raised the issue of how the city would provide water, police and fire services, and other resources, for increased population, when currently such resources are stretched. She giggled and said she knew that was “semi-irrelevant” to the issue at hand. “They” are preventing us from delivering what “they” are asking for, she concluded.

“Thank you,” said Ashbeck and commented about the “false narrative” that the city denied permission for a multi-unit residential building recently, which was only 12 units and not affordable with rents at $2,800 per month. “It’s hard, but we will do it,” she said of the will to comply with the housing element.

Ashbeck then asked Planning Commission members for their comments. Brandon Bedsted said, “We can do this.” Mike Cunningham said that we need a developer to work with us. Alma Antuna said she agreed with Pearce: where would the resources come from? She said that all people were welcomed here, regardless of race or background, even though Payne had pointed out that the city is a white majority which occupies at least 70% of the city, per her maps. Paul Hinkle said that “it’s only going to get worse,” and complained about Sacramento. He added that a friend of his got rid of his mobile home park (mobile homes were another suggestion in the housing element for a type of affordable housing) when it stopped being profitable. Amy Hatcher said that no one wants to build high density.

Ashbeck said she agreed with a remark Mouanoutoua had made earlier about improving senior housing.

Public comment was opened on the matter. Des Haus commented briefly about the public health aspect of housing. Brent Burdine came back to the lectern to say he was surprised and disturbed by what he heard. “Don’t destroy our community with mandates from Sacramento,” he said.

Local real estate developer Darius Assemi spoke next: “Your hands are tied,” he said. “It’s really unfortunate.” He said that “most folks” want “the biggest lot they can afford.”

Ashbeck thanked Payne for her “methodical, clear” presentation. “We are all committed to preserving the Clovis we love,” she said. “The challenge is to build a town for 50 years from now — that’s really our job,” she added.

At 8:52 p.m. the joint meeting ended.

City Manager Comments Holt said that Haussler had received an award. Then he raised the subject of permitting backyard chickens and said he needed clear direction about adding the subject to the agenda. A tally was taken: Basgall, Mouanoutoua and Pearce voted “yes” to adding the chickens issue to the agenda. Ashbeck was a “no” and expressed hostility toward the idea; Bessinger was a definitive “no.” So with the 3-2 decision, the matter of permitting chickens to be kept in Clovis backyards would be on the agenda before summer. Holt said the staff’s recommendation was not to allow it. It was noted that it is permitted in the county of Fresno, but no one clarified if that suggested it was therefore permissible in Clovis or any other city within the county.

Council Comments

Pearce had none.

Bessinger attended an air resources board meeting; he and Basgall met with the Anthem insurance company about their contracts with local hospitals. He was pleased with his decoration of the Clovis “Festus” statue.

Basgall said, “Go, chickens!” He said that some employees (did he refer to city employees — it was unclear) were “turned away” from oncology treatment, but he did not say why. A water board meeting was canceled on March 23. Bessinger made a joke about “waterboarding.”

Mouanoutou said he met as a member of a housing committee on March 16. Again, he didn’t bother to explain what committee it was. He mentioned SB4, authored by Scott Wiener, which would allow housing on church land, and some other pending housing bills.

Ashbeck said she participated in a meeting last week to help select a new superintendent of schools. Basgall interjected that the person selected was announced as Corinne Folmer, just moments before. “That’s a scoop,” said Ashbeck.

At 9:07 p.m., Attorney Scott Cross said that there would be a report from the closed session and that they would reconvene to announce it, but for those attending remotely, the Webex was discontinued.

If you believe anything in these notes is inaccurate, please email us at with “Correction Request” in the subject line.

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