In the coming months (and, likely, years — let’s hope it isn’t decades), we here at the Beehive will keep you updated on an important community flash-point topic: the Fulton Mall and the proposal to open it up to traffic. We’ll call it Fulton Focus.
In this morning’s Bee, there was an interesting letter to the editor on the issue. In response to the Page 1 headline “Federal grant is same as saying Fulton Mall was a mistake,” Mary Savala writes:
The feds made us do it? No. The fault for the demise of downtown and the failure of the Fulton Mall to revitalize downtown lies right in City Hall. The city of Fresno approved residential developments, shopping centers and strip malls one after the other in the 1960s, bleeding the lifeblood of downtown. And the city of Fresno never implemented a housing element in the ingredients for a vital downtown although recommended by the mall’s designer.
Don’t blame the federal government for bad local land-use policies. Let’s accept and learn from the mistakes that made Fresno sprawl and just about killed downtown instead of trying to pass the buck.
As the debate gears up on whether to open the Fulton Mall to traffic — and it will get intense, no question — I wholeheartedly agree with Savala’s contention that Fresno’s relentless embrace of sprawl had more to do with downtown’s woes than whether you could drive your car up Fulton St. (And that sprawl-love includes the latest baffling support for a health-sciences university 20 miles from downtown, far from any existing infrastructure.) The Fulton Mall question is as complex as a decades-long issue involving quick-buck developers, pliant politicians and a car-worshiping culture can be. To make it into a black-and-white “it’s all because we yanked the cars out” argument is too simple.