One might not expect a proposed development for an abandoned lot on one of the grittier stretches of Blackstone Avenue would cause much debate, but here we are.

The project (which includes space for the grocery/supply store Smart and Final) goes before the planning commission review on Wednesday and will likely test the limits of the city’s new general plan and set precedence for how developers will be treated moving forward.

Or, as George Hostetter put it: “Who is in Fresno’s development saddle, business as usual or high ideals?”

As is, plans for the development don’t jive with either The Tower District Design Review Committee (the lot is on the edges of the district) or the general plan set by the City of Fresno.

Those are the “high ideals,” I guess.

On the other side, there is Council Member Clint Olivier.

From the Bee story:

“Who knows more about retail, Smart & Final or the city of Fresno?” says Council Member Clint Olivier, whose district includes the project site. “In a case like this, I always side with the business owner. I always side with the free market.”

His opinion is bolstered by citizens like Terry Davis, who wrote this letter to the editor in support of the project.

Obviously, this area of town would benefit from a project like this and we shouldn’t turn away businesses that are willing to invest in our city (especially parts of the city that tend to get neglected). But we can’t give them free reign, either, especially if what they want is in conflict with policies and plans already in place.

The prevailing sentiment seems to be that good planning and design are somehow incompatible with development (it need not be) or that “something is better than nothing.”

If we want real change in Fresno, that’s simply not good enough. Hopefully, the planning commission (and eventually the city council) understand as much.

Josh Tehee

Josh Tehee

Joshua Tehee is an entertainment guy. Music runs in his veins. Like seriously, you cut him open and there's no blood-- just music. It's weird.
Josh Tehee
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4 thoughts on “Development and good design and planning are not mutually exclusive

  • March 18, 2015 at 1:31 am

    I just submitted this letter to the editor:

    This marks the 24th anniversary of the Tower District Specific Plan. Countless residents and business owners helped draft the plan and implement it since 1991. It provides a comprehensive process for managing historic resources alongside new development in our established neighborhood. Tower’s continued success can be credited to legal policies that balance: quality, stability, economic development and fiscal responsibility.

    Blackstone & Clinton is the north east corner of the Tower District boundary. There, Rich Development proposes a banal drive thru and strip mall anchored by Smart & Final. We worked hard to find design and site layout comprises at this important transition between a high traffic commercial corridor and a residential neighborhood. Ultimately, our Design Review Committee voted unanimously against.

    In my 8 years of service on the committee this is the 3rd time a developer decided they should enjoy the fruits of business in Tower without meeting long standing design guidelines. Rich Development feels entitled to special treatment. Councilmember Olivier has take up their cause in name of the free market.

    This ignores half of the supply and demand economy. You and I that live together in this neighborhood and city are the demand. We demand quality design and walk-ability.

    • March 18, 2015 at 8:42 am

      Thanks Kiel. I appreciate the insight and also happen to agree. Unfortunately, there are many who seem to think because the neighborhood is blighted that it deserves anything it can get.

  • March 18, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Fresno needs to take a deep breath, gather up a healthy bit of self esteem, and make the decision to say that Fresno deserves better. We can’t just settle for whatever we can get. We need to expect the best and work toward getting it. Sometimes that means telling developers “Nope, that’s not what we want. Try again.” Will city council relay that message or undermine the specific plan developed by the community? I guess we’ll see.

  • March 18, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    Clint Olivier should walk down Blackstone and tell us with a straight face it’s working.

    Because that;s what 50 years of free market reign has given us.


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