EDITORIAL: Attempts to alter Fresno's general plan are premature

The Fresno BeeJuly 17, 2013 

This morning the Fresno City Council will vote on a resolution supporting proposals to cut development red tape and provide business incentives.

Given the city's double-digit unemployment and long-standing complaints about the development department's snail's pace, we urge Mayor Ashley Swearengin and the City Council to do what is necessary to make Fresno business friendly.

But, until Wednesday afternoon, the group pitching the recommendations, Creating Prosperity in Fresno, also was intent on undermining the city's 2035 General Plan update, which seeks to direct more development to the urban core. Specifically, the group was asking the council to "equally promote and prioritize all land in the 1983 Sphere of Influence as infill development."

Fortunately, City Council Member Oliver Baines — recognizing that such an agreement would return the city to the blight-and-flight practices of the past — interceded. We were told Wednesday evening by Baines' council assistant Gregory Barfield that the group won't lobby to change the general plan at today's meeting.

No plan should be set in cement. Markets and ideas change, and thoughtful leaders adjust accordingly. But Creating Prosperity in Fresno, a nascent group whose members include developer Darius Assemi, jumped the gun by calling for the city to alter the general plan even before the mayor's Infill Development Task Force put forth strategies to lure investment to struggling neighborhoods.

The group also wants Swearengin to focus fewer resources on the Fulton Mall. Swearengin was twice elected on a platform of turning the Fulton Mall into an asset. She has worked closely with President Barack Obama's administration to attract federal interest and dollars in Fresno. This relationship has positioned our city to revitalize Fulton — Fresno's historic main street.

The mayor should not waver in her determination to transform Fulton. But she must better address needs in other parts of the city, and she must accelerate the permitting process so that builders get moving again.

These things can be done while also rolling out the city's infill strategy. If this requires hiring additional planning staff, so be it. The city must move faster to grow its tax base in this rebounding economy.


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