FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) –After more than two hours of public comment and discussion, the Fresno City Council unanimously voted in favor of partially rezoning a controversial portion of land in Southwest Fresno.
The vote is a compromise proposed by District 3 representative Miguel Arias.
“None of the options that have surfaced over the last two and a half years have the unanimous support of anyone,” said Arias.
His proposal lacks community and property owners’ support.
The City Council was initially considering whether or not to rezone 92 acres on Elm Street from neighborhood mixed-use to light industrial.
“We are advocating for a reduction in the industrial presence and footprint in Southwest Fresno,” said B.T Lewis, pastor at Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta also urged city leaders to vote against the rezoning, calling the proposal ‘likely unlawful’.
The area used to be zoned for industrial, but that changed in 2017 after a group of residents drafted the Southwest Fresno Specific Plan, which asked the city to stop heavy and light industrial land uses next to communities of color, citing health risks and high pollution.
“I can tell you that our community is quite fed up,” said Dr. Venise Curry during a public comment. “We fought this fight based on the fact that our community has been redlined and disinvested in.”
Property owners like Mid-Valley Disposal requested the rezone back to light industrial to avoid a non-conforming land use status, “allowing them to borrow money to meet the 2030 state goal to electrify all their vehicles and all their equipment,” said Arias.
“Mid-Valley Disposal is a core service to the City of Fresno, we are a branch of your public utilities,” said owner and CEO Joseph Kalpakoff. “We process recyclables for the City of Fresno, we help maintain our commitment to the environmental quality that the state of California requires of us.”
To appease both sides, Arias proposed a compromise.
“To keep two-thirds of the 92 acres as a residential zone as the community wants, but to accommodate the businesses by rezoning one-third of the 92 acres to light industrial so that the garbage facility and the regional distribution center for pharmaceuticals can borrow money to upgrade their facilities and meet the state requirement,” he explained.
Neither side is happy with the compromise approved by the city council on Thursday. Residents say the ongoing industrial zoning in communities of color is racist.
“If we are One Fresno, the way to make One Fresno is to be equitable and this request is not equitable,” said Dr. Curry. “And it is co-signing on the death certificates of millions of African Americans, Latino Americans, Hmong Americans.”
“You can dress up racism in pretty diplomatic words and come up with all types of justifications, but it’s still racism,” said Southwest resident Ivanka Saunders.