Fresno City Hall photo by Breanna Hardy
Written by Edward Smith
A Downtown Fresno housing project more than a dozen years in the making failed to garner the votes necessary for an extension Wednesday. And Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias says it’ll be years before another housing project comes forward.
Developers could not get the five votes necessary to approve another extension for “The Park” — a housing project overlooking Chukchansi Stadium formerly called the South Stadium project.
Municipal code requires a supermajority to grant such an extension.
Arias said the process under the Surplus Land Act will require at least two years to find a user they can approve to purchase the city-owned property that is just under an acre in size.
Terance Frazier — a controversial figure at city hall — stepping away from the project wasn’t enough to convince Councilmembers Garry Bredefeld and Mike Karbassi to grant The Park another extension.
Even though Frazier announced he would step away from the project, Councilmember Esmeralda Soria recused herself from the vote as she has done previously. Soria and Frazier are in a relationship.
The project garnered scrutiny from the Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District. The Park project would have been the first new construction project along that part of Fulton Street for over 50 years, Arias said. Being a flood plain, plans had to be reworked to meet code. In doing so, the delay triggered the need for the council to approve an extension.
“While I always applaud attempts to build homes and drive investment in our community, the South Stadium project has simply taken too long at a time when more housing units are needed faster than ever,” said Karbassi in a statement. “As with all developments, I believe the viability of the project ought to be central to our focus as a policy making body, regardless of who owns or operates the project. After 8 years, with no true start date for construction, I could not in good conscience allow further extensions to leave prime land idle any further.”
Arias said due to annually-changing building codes as well as the surplus land process, he does not expect a housing project to come forward for the land in either Bredefeld’s or Karbassi’s time in office.
Karbassi and Bredefeld both said Wednesday they did not feel the Council had treated developers equally, citing the number of extensions given The Park as well as those given to developer Cliff Tutelian’s proposed project at Van Ness and Tuolumne avenues. The Fresno City Council gave Tutelian two extensions before voting against a renewal.
Arias said other Downtown Fresno projects have taken even longer.
Iron Bird Lofts took a decade to finish. It took 22 years for the Courtyard Marriott hotel near the Fresno Convention Center to break ground. A proposed housing project from Lance Kashian & Co. at Stanislaus Street and Van Ness Avenue is nearing 15 years, said Arias.
Developer Mehmet Noyan said he and partner Jeff Isenstadt had reached a settlement with Frazier Tuesday night where he could walk away. The presence of Frazier on the project had been a sticking point for both Karbassi and Bredefeld in the past.
The Park would have brought 99 units, including 20 affordable units to Downtown Fresno. Rent on the affordable units would be around $554 a month, according to developers.