Fresno leaders unveil remodeled apartments in El Dorado Park

The Fresno BeeApril 17, 2014 

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, center, joins residents of San Ramon Apartments to celebrate their renovated units. Also pictured are Housing Authority officials and City Councilman Paul Caprioglio.

GEORGE HOSTETTER — The Fresno Bee

A rehabilitated apartment complex in an improving north Fresno neighborhood was unveiled with high hopes Thursday by political and community leaders.

Mayor Ashley Swearengin, Council Member Paul Caprioglio and Fresno Housing Authority Chief Executive Preston Prince joined residents in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at El Dorado Park's San Ramon Apartments.

The 32-unit complex of affordable housing received a six-month, $4.2 million make-over that turned blight into stylish homes.

"The San Ramon revitalization project is a great example of rebuilding vibrant neighborhoods in our community," Swearengin said. Community-led efforts are pivotal to "fostering neighborhoods that are safe and clean, where residents have options to modern housing," she said.

Caprioglio, who represents the El Dorado Park area, views the project as a catalyst.

"Others will be built," Caprioglio said. "This is a sign where this community is going."

The city's Neighborhood Stabilization Program spent $3 million on the project. The Housing Authority, which owns the apartments, added $1.2 million.

Prince said it took a "collaboration of the community" to make the project a success. He praised residents, the El Dorado Park Community Development Corp., Fresno State, Wesley United Methodist Church and the federal Building Neighborhood Capacity Program for their contributions.

The San Ramon project has two sections of 16 units each.

Each section consists of two two-story buildings of eight apartments each. The two buildings are separated by a common patio and lawn.

Sixteen units have been leased.

The place under the previous owner was falling apart. Just about everything now is new, repaired or repainted. The apartments closest to San Ramon Avenue have windows onto the street, something community leaders have long championed as a way of enhancing neighborhood security.

"El Dorado Park is looking good," said Rosa Gonzales, an El Dorado Park community leader. "Property values are going up."

El Dorado Park is bounded by Barstow Avenue on the north, Fourth Street on the west, Bulldog Lane on the south and Sixth Street on the east. It's not big -- community activists says it's maybe 50 acres -- and sits almost in the shadow of Bulldog Stadium to the east.

But El Dorado Park in the past 25 years has grabbed the attention and conscience of city leaders far out of proportion to its size. Its crush of low-rent apartments and the concentrated poverty that often goes with them made the fate of El Dorado Park a high priority for local planners.

City Hall and advocates for the poor joined forces about seven yearsago to craft (with the help of residents) an El Dorado Park renaissance plan. The result was a blueprint filled with dreams. Money was the deal-breaker. The city's Redevelopment Agency, with its steady access to property taxes and legal commitment to affordable housing, was to be a key part of the finances.

Then Gov. Jerry Brown killed redevelopment agencies to help fix the state budget.

El Dorado Park today is a structural mix. There are bright, fresh, family friendly complexes such as San Ramon Apartments. There are complexes teetering on the edge of blight. There are apartments that appear to have last seen a repairman back in the mid-1960s when the area with its college-age crowd was known as "Sin City."

Swearengin on Thursday said San Ramon Apartments represents a "new formula" for revitalization.

"It is something we can replicate across the city," she said.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6272 or ghostetter@fresnobee.com. Read his City Beat blog at fresnobee.com/city-beat.

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