Despite some public opposition, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors approved an extension for the Cemex company to continue gravel-mining near the San Joaquin River.

July 18, 2023 — Fresno County Board of Supervisors

Documented by Rachel Youdelman

Summary: Here’s what you need to know

  • The board approved a three-year extension of a conditional-use permit (CUP) for the Cemex company to continue gravel-mining near the San Joaquin River on the northern border of Fresno County. A four-year extension was requested.
  • An unscheduled presentation was made by state Assembly member Esmerelda Soria, D-Merced, though her appearance was not on the agenda. She discussed funding for various projects she is securing on behalf of the county in the seven months she’s been in office.
  • Despite criticism that it was “developer-driven” and lacked community input, the board approved a “Guidance Document for Unincorporated Community Plans.” The plan is supplemental to the county’s General Plan and provides guidance for updating existing or establishing new plans for unincorporated communities.


Brian Pacheco, 1st District

Steve Brandau, 2nd District

Sal Quintero, 3rd District, chair

Buddy Mendes, 4th District

Nathan Magsig, 5th District, vice-chair


Daniel C. Cederborg, county counsel

Bernice E. Seidel, clerk

Paul Nerland, county administrative officer (CAO)

The Scene

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors held its only meeting of the month on July 18 at 9:30 a.m. Chairman Quintero opened the meeting and asked Supervisor Mendes to introduce the pastor giving the invocation, Virgil Miller of the Christ Lutheran Church in Reedley. “Let’s all bow our heads and pray,” said Miller, who wore bright blue eyeglasses and a large cross around his neck. Unusually, no explicit mention of “Jesus” was made. “Keep us mindful of our sisters and brothers of different faiths,” prayed Miller, and “to love and respect each other regardless of differences,” concluding, “In your holy name.” 

The meeting was unusually long at 4½ hours, and the room was full of attendees. There were a couple of unusual procedures, with a portion of the closed session occurring at the beginning of the meeting instead of the normal end, and a non-agendized appearance by District 27 Assembly member Esmerelda Soria. Vice Chairman Magsig spoke often and at length on a number of agenda items, reciting statistics off the top of his head and waving one hand around. Supervisor Mendes spoke occasionally with his mic off, grinning and appearing to make jocular remarks, which were unintelligible, but which were followed by laughter. The livestream, both audio and video, was disrupted at about 11 a.m. and restored about 20 minutes later.

Meetings are open to the public and are held at the Fresno County Hall of Records, 2281 Tulare Street, Room 301. Public comments on matters on or off the agenda are welcomed. If you plan to make a comment in person on an item not on the agenda, note that this portion of the meeting is always last on the agenda. Each agenda item is otherwise accorded time for live public comment as they are introduced. Meetings are live streamed; agendas, livestream and meeting video may be accessed here. The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 8 at 9:30 a.m.

Each supervisor represents one of five districts. Who is your county supervisor? Find out here.

To contact your supervisor about any issues or agenda items for a particular meeting, call or email with your opinion or question:

·   Pacheco District 1 (559) 600-1000

·   Brandau District 2 (559) 600-2000

·   Quintero District 3 (559) 600-3000

·   Mendes District 4 (559) 600-4000

·   Magsig District 5,  (559) 600-5000

Agenda Item 1 The board approved the day’s agenda with a 5-0 vote.

Agenda Item 2 The board approved the consent agenda, items 23-67, and no items were pulled for discussion. The “consent agenda” is a group of items considered routine and not warranting examination, unless they are pulled for discussion by a council member or a member of the public.

Agenda Item 3 At 9:35 a.m. the board recessed to closed session for this item. Described by county attorney Cederborg as “only a real estate matter,” there were no other announcements or remarks about it.

Agenda Item 4 The board voted 5-0 to proclaim the week of July 17-21 as the Department of Social Services’ Eligibility Workers, Job Specialists, and Appeals Specialists Appreciation Week. Quintero sponsored the proclamation. Several of the agency’s staff members were present to speak briefly. Everyone posed for a group photo.

Agenda Item 5 The board voted 5-0 to proclaim July 16-22 as Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision Week, an item sponsored by Supervisor Mendes, who introduced Chief Probation Officer Kirk Haynes and said he would “let Haynes do the talking.” Haynes said that California had the best probation department in the country and that Fresno’s was the best in California, which he attributed to “the work of these fine folks,” gesturing to several of his staff who were present with him. He spoke briefly, mentioning the realignment of the juvenile justice division, and called the conditions at an old juvenile facility “unconscionable.” A short recruitment video was shown, and Haynes noted that his hair was graying after five years in his position. A group photo was taken.

Agenda Item 6 The board unanimously approved a resolution acknowledging Dr. Trinidad Solis, deputy health officer, for her having been named Physician of the Year by the National Hispanic Medical Association. David Luchini, director of the Department of Public Health, spoke briefly about Solis, noting that she was from Selma and returned to Fresno County during the COVID-19 pandemic to lead the work in vaccinating farmworkers. Solis thanked the board, and among her brief remarks, said that she was the daughter of migrant farmworkers. Supervisor Brandau, also a native of Selma, noted that both he and Solis were graduates of Selma High School; Supervisor Pacheco quipped that because of Solis, the town of Selma now had something to be proud of, after which laughter was heard. Quintero thanked Solis for “coming back home,” and Magsig praised her. A group photo was taken.

Agenda Item 7 The board heard a presentation by Richie Sayavong of the California Insurance Commissioner’s office about concerns regarding insurance policies in areas of the county that are vulnerable to wildfires. He appeared before the board in response to Magsig’s invitation. Magsig said via his Facebook page in a post of July 18 that residents of his district are paying “exorbitant” fire insurance rates “if they can get it.”

Sayavong noted that the insurance commissioner cannot compel insurance companies to sell insurance. He pointed out that his agency has held over 800 informative events in all 58 California counties since 2019, letting people know that people in fire-risk areas can get coverage for evacuation expenses and for upgrading to meet building codes. He also said that there was a 1-year moratorium for nonrenewals and an increased nonrenewal notice period from 45 to 75 days. He spoke about the FAIR Plan, which is “available to California residents and businesses in urban and rural areas who cannot obtain insurance through a regular insurance company,” per the insurance commissioner’s website.

Sayavong also discussed what residents could do to be “Safer from Wildfires,” a series of 10 protective measures entailing protection of a home or business, protecting immediate surroundings, and protecting the entire community. Specific steps include installing a fire-rated roof, maintaining a 5-foot ember-resistant zone around a structure, clearing debris from under decks, trimming trees and being certified as a “Fire-Risk Reduction Community.” Every step completed will qualify an insured party for a discounted rate, said Sayavong, and insurance companies will be required to grant discounted rates, per this plan. He also discussed state and federal grants and sources for fire prevention and management.

Magsig said that the State Farm insurance company had left California and would no longer provide insurance in the state. Sayavong replied that no insurance companies have left California but that they are leaving Texas and Florida; California, he added, has the biggest insurance market in the country. The Fresno Bee reported on June 2 this year that State Farm would no longer sell new policies in California but quoted a State Farm representative who said that “State Farm has continued to be open for new business in a lot of wildfire-exposed communities.”

At this point Quintero said the board would deviate from the agenda for a public presentation by state Assembly member Esmerelda Soria, D-Merced. Pacheco introduced her, noting that when she was sworn in  seven months ago, several crises ensued, such as the closure of the Madera Community Hospital, followed by torrential rains and flooding. Yet in those seven months, said Pacheco, Soria had secured millions in funding for the county, in particular for communities such as Mendota, Kerman and Tranquility. He added that the board had “no dialogue” with her redistricted predecessor, Ash Kalra, who “worked against us” and “yelled at us.”

Soria spoke for several minutes, detailing her priorities and accomplishments, such as chairing the Agriculture Committee and introducing legislation to establish an emergency loan program for distressed hospitals, to aid a potential reopening of the recently closed Madera Community Hospital; $250 million in funding for downtown Fresno; and $50 million for Kerman (new police station), Mendota (a community center) and Tranquillity (new roads). Other legislation she mentioned was AB830, a bill to manage water issues, and her support of AB1672, a bill to support statewide salary negotiation for in-home supportive services (IHSS) workers. The latter was personal, because, she said, her father, a former farmworker, now was an IHSS worker, caregiver for her mother, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s. Both parents were immigrants from Mexico, she said.

Brandau asked Soria about AB1672 and said that he “took a meeting” about it recently with the labor union for IHSS workers, SEIU2015. Was there a way to speed the process of implementing salary increases, faster than the bill’s proposed 2.5 years? Brandau said that it was generally agreed that “these folks need more.” Soria said it would take that long to implement increases but that she would check if it could be done in a shorter time. Magsig remarked that state-level negotiations would help the workers. Mendes said that Soria had done more in seven months than most Assembly members had ever done. Quintero thanked her.

At this point, about 11 a.m., the board’s livestream coverage, both audio and video, was disrupted; it was restored about 20 minutes later. During the disruption, agenda item 8 was discussed and voted on; the livestream resumed toward the conclusion of the discussion of agenda item 9.

Agenda Item 8 Deputy Clerk Dean Dela Cruz confirmed via email that the board approved 5-0 to fill a part-time special properties appraiser position in the Assessor’s Office with a retiree, dispensing with the normal 180-day separation period.

Agenda Item 9 The board voted unanimously to authorize execution of a resolution regarding the Sheriff’s Office use of military equipment as required by state law (per AB481). The law requires the board, as the governing agency of the Sheriff’s Office, to approve a military equipment use policy by ordinance at a regular open meeting of the board and thereafter to review and approve the policy annually.

This first hearing was retroactive to May 2022. The board’s vote included direction to Cederborg to prepare the ordinance.

The livestream of the meeting resumed after the public comment period had begun. One public commenter was Sandra Iyall of the Fresno chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, who said that she didn’t want “tanks on our streets.” She held a sign that said “Don’t militarize our community.” Another commenter, Emily Brandt, asked for more information about the military equipment, and Mendes shouted, “This is public comment, not public question.”

Magsig remarked that the city of Clovis had a “Bearcat” and was careful to distinguish it from a “tank.” He said such military equipment was necessary to protect police officers, now that the general public had easy access to “high-caliber weapons” that could be used against police. Then he said, national reports of police violence notwithstanding, that the “goal” of law enforcement is “always to de-escalate.”

Agenda Item 10 The board voted 5-0 to approve a lease agreement with an option to purchase property in Clovis to house the Department of Social Services. Brandau called it “a good deal,” and Magsig added his approval.

Agenda Item 11 The board voted 5-0 to approve the “Guidance Document for Unincorporated Community Plans,” prepared for the Public Works Department by the Provost and Pritchard Consulting Group. The plan is supplemental to the county’s general plan, and provides guidance for updating existing plans or establishing new plans for unincorporated communities. There was a brief discussion among the supervisors about the ranking of the communities, which are ranked by degree of need of services.

Two members of the public commented: Emily Brandt said she lived in an unincorporated area and that there was an ongoing zoning violation involving what she called “illegal trucking yards” in residential zones. She thanked Pacheco’s office for help with the matter. Pacheco said that residents “should not have to put up with that,” and that they depend on “county counsel” to manage the problem, looking in the direction of Cederborg. It was unclear if he expected a response from Cederborg, or if he was accusing the county counsel of negligence.

Mariana Alvarenga of the Leadership Counsel on Justice and Accountability said that there were 36 unincorporated areas within the county, and that they were historically excluded from attention. The ranking process used in the aforementioned document, she said, was “developer-driven,” that it should be “community-driven,” and that there was not enough community engagement in determining the needs of the communities. She added that unincorporated communities have been neglected for too long.

Maria Reyna of the Del Rey Community Service District thanked the board for placing Del Rey on the list, but said that some areas of concern did not appear to be addressed. Del Rey has been “on the back burner for a long time,” she said.

Agenda Item 12 The board approved a request from a property owner to remove about 2 acres from a 30-acre farm to create a residence. The parcel is under a Williamson Act contract, which is designed to conserve agricultural land. The Agricultural Land Conservation Committee (ALCC) recommended denial. Influential local developer Dirk Poeschel filed the request on behalf of Boparai Farms. A family member who wanted to occupy the residence and manage the farm was present and said she was a graduate of UC Davis, where she studied hydrology and agriculture.

Pacheco wanted to know why a home site exception application was not made, and said that he “had a problem with that.” If a family member would occupy the house, no problem, he said, and reiterated that he would not otherwise support the request.

Agenda Item 13 Following a long discussion, the board approved a three-year extension of a conditional use permit (CUP) for the Cemex company to continue gravel mining near the San Joaquin River on the northern border of Fresno County. A four-year extension had been requested.

The issue was controversial, and supporters and opponents were present to give their opinions. Many in the audience wore green “No to Cemex” stickers.

Cemex’s permit was scheduled to expire at the end of this month, and its tardiness in making the request for an extension was one of the issues questioned by the supervisors.

Director of City Planning Jennifer Clark was present to explain that the company’s environmental impact report (EIR) was nearly 40 years old and hence was insufficient to support the project.

Pat Mitchell, Cemex’s attorney, made his case in support of an extension with a PowerPoint presentation. He showed photos of popular Fresno commercial buildings, hospitals, stadiums, schools and roads that were all built with aggregate mined at the Cemex site. He repeated several times that the company employs over 90 people whose families would be stranded if the contract were not extended. He said that many other California counties are not required to file for an extension, cited court precedent and said that the city of Fresno was “off-base,” and “wrong.” It was not true that the EIR documents were out of date, he said.

Quintero opened public comment on the matter; there were six in favor and six opposed. Among them, Sharon Weaver, executive director of the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust, said that so much aggregate had been extracted from the site over the last 100 years that it was enough for a two-lane highway all around the world. Kay Pitts said that Cemex is compliant with the nearly 40-year-old EIR, but that they would not be with an updated version. She said that they knew the deadline was approaching but that “they blew it off” and suggested a compromise of a two-year extension. Others talked about environmental restoration of the river and the importance of preserving biodiversity.

Those who favored the extension were employees or affiliates of the company. Some described themselves as second-generation employees and said they depended on Cemex “for a comfortable life.” Some remarked that if gravel were not mined here, it would have to be imported or trucked in from elsewhere on polluting vehicles and at a higher cost. One commenter said that the concrete made from the Cemex materials was “environmentally friendly.”

Before Quintero closed the public comment portion of the discussion, Mike Karbassi, a Fresno City Council member, commented. Approaching the podium, he joked, “Long-time listener, first-time caller,” but no one laughed. He said that the city had legitimate concerns, and that a “conversation” should take place after a new EIR was completed. He didn’t want the EIR process to be “weaponized,” he said.

Brandau was critical of Cemex for “not being prepared” for the end of the CUP. Will Kettler of the Public Works Department said that an updated EIR has been in progress since June of 2020 — “the middle of the whole COVID thing,” said Brandau — and that he told Cemex attorney Mitchell that there was no automatic extension of the CUP. Brandau asked Jennifer Clark if she was aware of the progress of the new EIR. She said that they reorganized during the pandemic, and that she was informed late of a request for an extension. Brandau reiterated some of his questions, then said it sounded like the city was not aware of the EIR in progress, and that “the city should have called the county,” concluding that “I think it’s politics” on the part of “a couple of Fresno City Council members.”

Brandau, now sounding wistful, said, “I feel like I love the river,” and quoted an acquaintance who told him, “Steve — if people know me, they call me ‘Steve’— you can’t do this to the river.” But he “had a foot in another world” as well, and his decision, alas, would not be perfect for everyone. He said that an extension of Cemex’s contract will “get them there,” to a point at which Cemex will be able to protect the river and its wildlife. Then he cited COVID-19 disruption for the EIR delay, and in the end, “things get sluggish when you deal with government” anyway, he added.

The area in question falls in both Brandau and Magsig’s districts. Magsig simply said he could support an extension, and Pacheco thanked him for being succinct after Brandau’s long speech.

Pacheco acknowledged the dilemma of being dependent on the local source for materials to manufacture concrete and the need to conserve the river environment. He agreed, citing commenter Kay Pitts’ remarks, that a compromise two-year extension term was advisable.

As Magsig prepared to speak, Mendes jocularly told him he had talked enough and directed a question to Bernard Jimenez of the Public Works Department. Jimenez said that the updated EIR would likely be completed within two years, but that further time to collect public comment could be needed. Cemex attorney Mitchell insisted that the company needed the full four years, and repeated that he didn’t know that an extension needed to be formally requested.

The board finally agreed on a three-year extension.

At this point, many people left the room, and were replaced by SEIU2015 members, who wanted to speak during the final public comment period.

Agenda Item 14 Board reports and comments.

Mendes said that the Kings River would reopen soon for recreational use.

Magsig said that he organized a “cleanup” with residents of Millerton Road, with the help of the Public Works Department. In a video on his public Facebook page, Magsig said he set up the cleanup because “government shouldn’t do everything,” participation of the Public Works Department notwithstanding. 

He also said that he collected public opinion regarding the implementation of the name change of Yokuts Valley, per AB2022. In a July 7 Facebook post, Magsig erroneously had asked constituents to submit their opinions on the name change itself in response to the Natural Resources Agency request for all public agencies required to comply with AB2022 to comment by July 15 on a draft of procedures and implementation of the law. Magsig wanted to collect constituents’ comments and submit them with the county’s. He said that he received 35 emails, 33 of which agreed with him. He persists in using the old name for the town in question, despite its derogatory nature, and affirms that the lawsuit the county has filed in opposition to the name change is pending. Magsig mentioned the death of Mike Reynolds, who was behind the “Three strikes” law in California, as well as the death of Betsy Sandoval, a Clovis Unified School District board member.

Pacheco expressed condolences to the Reynolds and Sandoval families.

Brandau asked CAO Nerland if some funded but unfilled positions could be “pulled” so that salary increases for others could go forward. Tulare County was giving raises to employees, so the threat of competition must be staved off, he said. Nerland replied that he was already looking into it.

Quintero said that the “State of the County” address would be delivered on Sept 21.

Agenda Item 15 Board appointments. Mendes made two, Pacheco one.

Agenda Item 16 Public comment regarding subjects not on the agenda. Three people objected to a land annexation plan, though the location of the land in question was unclear. The annexation was about “financial gain” and would bring “crime, drugs, homelessness, and affordable housing.” Developers, not “we the people,” would benefit, they said.

Five people, all members of the IHSS union, SEIU2015, pleaded for higher wages. Three of them spoke in Spanish alongside a translator. The room at this point was full of people in purple SEIU2015 T-shirts. There is a 15-minute limit per topic and a 3-minute per-person limit.

Closed Session, Agenda Items 17-22 Cederborg confirmed there would be no report from the closed session, so the public portion of the meeting ended at 1:55 p.m.

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

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