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.
If you care about the future growth and development of the city, you’ve no doubt been following the movement of the city’s 2035 general plan update.
The plan, which lays out the policies and procedures that will guide the city in the next two decades, went before the planning commission last night. It will get a full-on public hearing 5 p.m. Thursday and the city expects to fill the Exhibit Hall at the convention center with interested parties. If Mayor Ashley Swearengin gets her way, the plan will go before the city council at its Dec. 18 meeting.
Those following the ongoing battle over net neutrality got a super dose of political back-and-fourth as Senator Ted Cruz took to Twitter Monday to decry President Obama’s call for the FCC to reclassify consumer broadband service as a utility — a move that would protect net neutrality by giving the FCC authority to keep those service providers in check.
"Net Neutrality" is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.
If you haven’t had a chance to look over the City of Fresno’s updated 2035 General Plan (a draft of which has been available since July 2), you should make yourself available for one of three public airings that are happening in the few days, especially if you are at all interested in the way that Fresno will develop and grow in the next two decades.
You have three chances:
6:30 tonight at the OAB at Fresno City College
6 p.m. Wednesday during a planning commission workshop at City Hall.
2 p.m. Thursday during a council workshop at City Hall
“If you care about Fresno’s future and having a development guide that attempts to rebuild older, deteriorating neighborhoods and finally apply the breaks to urban sprawl, you should support this plan.”
As the editorial rightly points out, sprawl (which seems like the city’s singular method of growth) is bad for a whole host of reasons. A good, reasoned general plan will likely affect your quality of life in a major way.
The silver lining here is what The Bee predicted in one of two editorials it ran prior to the vote: The council (or at least four of its members) have proven their intentions disingenuous and that their motives can’t be trusted.
Even those opposed to BRT shouldn’t see the vote as a victory. Because BRT was never the issue. Neither was the appropriation of tax-payer money. No, this was about something else. Council member Lee Brand said as much in this quote from Friday’s story in The Bee: “BRT wasn’t the issue,” Council Member Lee Brand said. “The issue was the general plan.”
As reminder, this is the general plan that the council approved in 2012. It’s the general plan that focuses on infill development and curbing sprawl and one which certain council members (and developers) now want to see changed (at a estimated cost of $2 million or more. As reminder, that will also be taxpayer dollars spent).
So, that is the kind of politics the city is dealing with. Here’s hoping it will be remembered by voters come June.
Fresno City Council will vote today on whether to accept and move forward with the $50 million Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) that will put faster, more reliable public transportation along Blackstone and Ventura avenues. It’s not light rail. It’s not even a full (or partial) overhaul of the current FAX system.
But it’s something and it’s sorely needed.
It’s laughable that there should be any question on how this vote will go, but here we are.
There have been a number of well-reasonedexplanations why the council should allow the project to proceed, the least of which is the loss of grant funds (that $50 million) that have been designated specifically for BRT (not to be used for any other projects).
If there’s been a logical argument against BRT, it hasn’t come from any of the people pushing the council to vote “No.” As The Bee rightly pointed out, this seems to be more about throwing a wrench into the city’s 2035 general plan, than any arguing of the merits of the system.
Disregarding the general plan (which seeks to move the city toward more urban, high-density living), Fresno’s public transportation system needs improvement. Even those opposed to BRT say as much. Yet, here is a well-defined (and funded) opportunity to start that process, to show what could be possible.
2. Tower Beer Run
This is not a real race, although some with attack it as such no doubt. Get a $1 race bib and partake in $1 beer samples from two dozen Tower District establishments. 3. Sarah Chang
The Fresno Philharmonic turns 60. Violinist Sarah Chang help celebrate with a show that includes the Bruch Violin Concerto, which she first performed at her audition for the Juilliard School. She was five.
4. Catch up on Oscar nominees
With the Academy Awards around the corner, the local movie houses are full of Oscar-nominated films including “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa.” Bet you didn’t see that coming.
5. Fresno Partnership City Council Candidate Forum
Before you roll you eyes and say “boooooring,” keep in mind that life isn’t all fun and games. This is specifically for candidates in districts 1 and 7, but it’ll be good primer for anyone interested in local politics
As a sixth (and the event I will for sure be at) there is this.
For those who don’t following along, Flowing with Famous, is a long-running Fresno-centric podcast, where I sit down with podcast guru Mike Seay to talk about the city’s culture, media, music and politics.
Uploaded and ready to put in your iPod (or iPhone or whatever other device you use to listen to podcasts), it’s another episode of Flowing with Famous, where I sit down with Mike Seay to talk Fresno arts, entertainment, politics and more.
It might help if you picture us sitting at a dive bar somewhere.
In this episode we discuss:
UPDATE No. 2: And now we have a story from George Hostetter. You can and should read it, but suffice it to say: None of council member Brandau’s arguments hold water with me. This post from the people at Sunnyside Bicycles quickly explains why. Do you want to know why no one bikes on Fruit Avenue, council member? BECAUSE THERE ARE NO BIKE LANES.
(That’s twice today I’ve used all caps).
It’s naive to think everyone is going to (or should) care about bicycles and bike lanes as much as I do. It’s equally naive (and a bit elitist and annoying) to think cars are the only means of viable transportation.
UPDATE: (12:15 p.m. May 23) It looks like the city council ignored the Bicycle Master Plan and voted down the Fruit Avenue road diet. It should be noted that it was a 3-4 vote. Council members Xiong, Quintero, and Baines voted for the bike lanes. Brandau, Brand, Caprioglio, and Olivier voted against them.
Are these guys goldfish? The Bicycle Master Plan was approved two years ago. Is that too far back for them to remember? I feel guilty for waiting until hours before the vote to raise a fuss, but we shouldn’t have to have this discussion EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. a road diet comes up to vote. I suggest Brandau, Brand, Caprioglio and Olivier read the Bicycle Master Plan. AND THEN STICK TO IT. Of course they won’t, because they don’t have to apparently. Ugh.
On Thursday May 23rd, city staff will be asking City Council to approve a cooperative agreement with the County of Fresno to convert Fruit Avenue from four lanes to three lanes between Shaw and Herndon (Council District 2). This will add bicycle lanes on both sides of the street! Staff first asked Council’s approval on May the 2nd, but Council continued the item for two weeks to gather more information.
You see, the day the news broke — that Premiere Radio Network (which owns all the shows) would sever its ties with top-rated KMJ and take its shows elsewhere — was the same day Justin Bieber came to Fresno. I was up to my bangs in Bieber Fever. KMJ, Limbaugh, etc. were just an afterthought. Well, until the next morning, when I woke up to way more e-mail responses to the KMJ story than my Bieber story.
Even then I still wasn’t prepared for what awaited me in the office Monday morning. Not just a full voicemail box, but quite a few doozies. I called people back, one by one, trying to help them understand the circumstances — that it wasn’t KMJ’s decision, that it wasn’t a conspiracy to silence conservative viewpoints, that Obama wasn’t behind it all.
Calls kept coming all day and by the time they stopped, I learned that the Bielebers and Limbaugh diehards had a few things in common: Undying fandom, a dose of delusion, regurgitated viewpoints and a knack for losing control of their emotions.
More than a week — and countless conversations — later, a few things stand out to me about the public response to this fiasco:
There are several good entertainment choices for the weekend.
TELEVISION “The Walking Dead,” 9 p.m. Sunday, AMC: The third season opens with back-to-back episodes. The story picks up after the handful of survivors have spent the winter on the run from the walkers (you know them better as zombies). It appears they may be headed for some relief as the group finds a prison. All they have to do is clean out all the walkers and they will finally have a place to call home. But, this is “The Walking Dead” and that means nothing is what it seems. Don’t be scared away thinking this is a zombie show. “The Walking Dead” is a superb examination of the human condition and what a person would do to maintain even a small part of their humanity.
MOVIES “Argo”: If this story had been written as fiction, it would have been too unbelievable to work. The fact it’s based on real events around the 1979 hostage crisis makes the outlandish very real. Ben Affleck turns in a sterling performance as the CIA agent who comes up with a plan to pretend a movie is going to be shot in Iran as a way to save six Americans. Affleck also continues to show he’s a superb director.
DVD “Prometheus”: The film is a feast for the eyes. Director Ridley Scott elevates the visuals to a new sci-fi high in this tale of explorers following a map to the far reaches of outer space. From the holographic images on the ship to the massive beehive-like structures, the film is glorious in design. The casting is nearly as perfect, with Noomi Rapace’s passionate performance balanced by the cold and methodical thinking of Charlize Theron’s character. There are a few minor flaws: Idris Elb, who plays the ship’s captain, is underused; and Guy Pearce works under mounds of makeup as the mission’s rich benefactor. There’s no reason a younger actor had to be cast and put through such extensive makeup. Scott’s titanic effort in “Prometheus” yields such a visual triumph that small flaws can be overlooked.
I was watching the GOP presidential debate on Saturday night, and there seemed to be one thing on which all the white guys could agree: Obama need not be in office anymore. While it’s basically a foregone conclusion that President Obama would once again get his party’s nomination, don’t think you, given the climate of the country, that perhaps we should consider a different Democrat?
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Vermin Supreme. Here’s Mr. Supreme from the recent Lesser Known Candidates Debate in New Hampshire. Among his campaign promises: When he’s president, everybody gets a pony.
Here’s a politically-charged video with a strong Fresno tie that’s making the rounds. Recently, the website Exposing Leftists took to the campus of Fresno State to do just what its name suggests.
A host from Exposing Leftists — a site started by three college students aiming to expose the “hypocrisies of liberals on college campuses” — donned Fresno State gear and walked around campus asking students to sign a petition that would ban Glenn Beck and other conservative voices on TV and radio. At the same time, they asked the students whether they believed in free speech. The rest is pretty obvious. How the students didn’t spot the ruse, I don’t know. How many people ask you to sign a petition and put a camera in your face? That should have the first sign that some trickery was afoot.
Our nation’s political climate being one that’s obsessed with a well-placed zing against those with whom we disagree, dig-your-own-grave videos like these are not uncommon — from either side of the spectrum. As I write this, the video has 87,000+ views in just four days and is getting a lot of celebration from the political right.
Surprisingly, though, there’s only a tiny bit of Fresno bashing in the YouTube comments.
The incident made me realize that I don’t really know a lot about the companies I buy from. I’ve never thought about whether the $50 I pay for a dress has some greater effect on political funding. Then I stumbled upon this chart at OpenSecrets.org, Center for Responsive Politics, and was really wowed by the political leanings of clothing companies.
I’m not sure yet what this information means to me. I’ve always shopped based on my likes, value and need. I’m not sure I want to mesh my politics into my everyday shopping. But then I wonder if voting with my pocketbook and caring more about campaign contributions, especially now that companies and unions can give more, would have more effect than I think? It’s definitely something to think about.