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.
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