July 17, 2023 — Visalia City Council

Documented by Matthew Carnero-Macias

Here’s what you need to know

  • The Visalia City Council conducted a work session in response to Senate Bill 1186, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2024. The council voted to approve hiring a cannabis consultant to assist with researching and drafting a cannabis sales tax measure that would potentially appear on the 2024 general election ballot and to initiate zoning ordinance updates.
  • Visalia Transit workers remain on strike. Several community members expressed disappointment in the council’s response but at the same time demonstrated an eagerness to be an ally and offer their service during the strike, which is affecting the entire community. The council re-established that its role is to avoid meddling in privatized services and industry, even though as public transportation, Visalia Transit is a part of the city’s budget because it benefits the public.
  • Workforce development and industrial growth is a key element of the council’s 2030 General Plan, which aims to create more jobs and expand local economy opportunities. The council hired 4Creeks Inc. to conduct an industrial land inventory analysis (ILIA) for Capital Improvement Project CP0536. The contract award cannot exceed $60,000.

Follow-up questions

  • The Visalia City Council does not appear to be actively or intentionally involved in the labor dispute between Transdev and its drivers, who are on strike. With several community members voicing concerns and the pressure of social media and citizen journalism, how will the council move forward after the meeting? Will it change its stance on private goods and public services and realign themselves with taxpayers and constituents? 
  • It’s clear that some council members are disappointed in the due diligence required to conduct government business, such as suburban development planning or law enforcement oversight. Substantially minimizing the paper trail or possibly removing entire processes would be supported by some council members, as they deem these governmental activities unnecessary and cumbersome. Does this alarm residents? Has criticism come before the council on this very matter?
  • Visalia residents are raising concerns about the diminishing agricultural land in the city spurred by continuous suburban development. Despite general plans and agricultural land mitigation practices, some residents are distressed. Does California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) or other environmental-related reports and oversight indicate poor agricultural land use? How is housing demand determined? What is the share of accessible and affordable housing units in Visalia? Does Visalia need more investment in affordable housing development?


The Visalia City Council consists of District 1 Council member Liz Wynn, District 2 Vice Mayor Brett Taylor, District 3 Mayor Brian Poochigian, District 4 Council member Emmanuel Hernandez Soto and District 5 Council member Steve Nelson. All were in attendance at the regular meeting on July 17. Poochigian called the meeting to order at 7 p.m. 

April Treona Lancaster voiced her concerns about the forced two-week closure of the Visalia Farmer’s Market in downtown.

“As a direct result of the City of Visalia’s special events committee chair’s refusal to process the special events permit for the downtown Visalia certified farmer’s market, which is currently in its third season,” she said. “Our estimated financial losses range in total from $8,000 conservatively to $13,900.”

Lancaster urged the Council to conduct an unbiased ethics investigation into the special events permit application. 

The second public comment came from a Visalia resident who was upset with July 4th firework celebrations in her neighborhood. She stated it continues to disrupt pets like dogs and is a nuisance. She referenced San Joaquin Valley Air District reports that indicated harmful air quality after July 4th celebrations.

Lisa, whose last name was not available, is a Visalia resident. She expressed frustration with the Transdev contract negotiations and the driver strike. She informed the Council she and fellow Visalia Transit riders support a better living wage and understand the timeliness and necessity of the strike.

“Rather than being angry at the fact that we don’t have it running, they’re in solidarity with drivers, which is kind of magnanimous for labor and it’s something we should cherish as Visalians,” Lisa said. “That means we stand by our labor force.”

At the conclusion of her remarks she offered her services to the city. 

Maria Guillen voiced a desperate plea for local elected officials to support residents and public transportation workers. She said she and the community are standing up for economic justice and want to work in partnership with the city to find a solution.

Michelle, a Visalia Farmers Market staff member whose last name was not available, requested that the council conduct an unbiased ethics inquiry into the farmer’s market special event permit application process.

She informed the council that the Market Match Program was delayed. It is a food incentive program that matches CalFresh EBT and WIC benefits holders, dollar for dollar.

“We match so they get double for their money, but now that money is being spent on legal fees,” she said.   

The final public comment came from Lucilla Vazquez. She said her yard caught on fire because of her neighbor’s fireworks.

She added that the Transdev driver strike is affecting the welfare of the city and she would like to see the council do more for their constituents. 

“Yeah it‘s your business; you’re the ones who have that contract and it’s your citizens that are suffering, that are walking in that heat,” she said.

No items were pulled from the consent calendar nor was there any discussion prior to the council unanimously approving the items on it. 

Regular items and public hearings consisted of three residential subdivision projects, law 

enforcement personnel amendments, law enforcement annual reports and residential zoning ordinances. All items discussed during the public hearings were unanimously approved.

A hearing was held on Resolution 2023-27, which recommends the Council to approve the removal of all Williamson Act restrictions attached to Agricultural Preserve 187, composed of 23.7 acres, and to approve dissolving Agricultural Preserve 187, located at Ferguson Avenue and Demaree Street.

The Williamson Act or California Land Conservation Act, allows local governmental bodies to enter into contracts with private landowners to restrict land parcels to agriculture use. Removing the Williamson Act restrictions and diestablishing/diminishing Agricultural Preserve 187 are both required for the proposed residential development project to go forward, the Victory Oaks Tentative Subdivision Map and Annexation. 

The council reviewed and voted on two additional community development projects, the Crenshaw Tentative Subdivision project and Pearl Woods Tentative Subdivision project. 

Council members voted unanimously in favor of Resolution No. 2023-28 and Resolution No. 2023-29, to initiate annexation proceedings for the Crenshaw Tentative Subdivision project. The annexation application will be filed with the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO).

The council also voted to pass resolutions to initiate annexation proceedings for the Crenshaw Tentative Subdivision project. The annexation application will be filed with LAFCO.

Vice Mayor Brett Taylor noted regarding the residential development projects that “about ten years ago I worked for the Assessor’s Office and I was in charge of the cancellation and nonrenewals of the Williamson Act,” Taylor said. ”I’m very familiar with that process.”

Taylor readily made comments about the process, previous work he was involved in, and how the city needs more housing.

“So, this was a really long document, it was a 500-and-something-page- document for all this, which is unbelievable that that’s what it requires to build 67 acres of homes,” he said.  

The council unanimously approved an amendment to the law enforcement personnel that generates cost savings for the city. Converting one Measure N 10-year plan police officer position into two community service officer positions will save the city an estimated $14,700.

The council unanimously approved a resolution determining that the Visalia Police Department Assembly Bill 481 Annual Report (AB 481) is not a project that is subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). It renews the department’s military equipment use policy and approves the continued use of the equipment, as outlined in AB 481.

“Honestly, it’s kind of ridiculous that the state requires you to do this,” Taylor said. 

Poochigian echoed Taylor’s sentiment.

“I apologize that you have to waste your time doing this,” Poochigian said.

The report is public information and may be reviewed on the city of Visalia’s website. 

The final item subject to a public hearing was Ordinance 2023-06. The ordinance revises Visalia Municipal Code Chapter 10.16.210 – Parking Commercial Vehicles in Residential Districts. 

“We’re experiencing some problems with the way that our code is currently written,” said Neighborhood Preservation Manager Tracy Robertshaw.

The ordinance aims to allow commercial operators to drive company vehicles home and park in neighborhoods without becoming burdensome.

The council unanimously approved the first reading of the ordinance.   

Upcoming council meetings are Aug. 7 and Aug. 21, both starting at 7 p.m.

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

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