Fresno's blueprint for growth into 2035 ready for public reading

The Fresno BeeJuly 2, 2014 

Set aside a full evening and limber up those analytical skills, Fresno. The final draft of the 2035 general plan is here, and City Hall wants your thoughts.

The blueprint for growth over the next two decades was five years in the making and still has some bureaucratic hurdles ahead. But for now, city officials are satisfied to let Fresnans chew a bit on what has been promoted as a revolutionary document.

"The 2035 general plan represents a balanced strategy that will preserve neighborhood character, protect property values and promote investment in Fresno," Mayor Ashley Swearengin said.

Council Member Oliver Baines, who represents downtown and some of Fresno's oldest neighborhoods, said the plan has something for everyone looking for a place to live.

Want a new house in the suburbs? The plan guarantees a supply, Baines said.

Want a century-old California bungalow in a revitalized neighborhood? The plan can deliver, he said.

Want an artist's loft amid the energy of Mural District galleries? The plan is on your side, he said.

"I'm excited about the balance it brings to our city," Baines said. "We want to respect time-honored patterns of growth. At the same time, we want to redirect some growth to our established neighborhoods. We want to give people other options."

The draft plan stands out for several reasons.

For more than two years, it's generally been called the 2035 general plan update in public debate. The "update" is now gone.

That's probably because no update could ever be this big. It's two inches thick, and an environmental impact report on the plan should get its own airing shortly.

The plan is full of high hopes and sweeping promises.

That last point fulfills a mandate from April 2012. That's when the City Council, after two weeks and 10 hours of debate, settled on a theme for the new general plan.

The theme has been called "Alternative A with modifications." Its essence is less of a mouthful -- slow the sprawl, rejuvenate the core.

In a nutshell, that means infill development and higher-density living.

The draft general plan describes itself as "forward-looking, comprehensive and long-range."

The introduction is filled with lists.

There are five community concerns. No. 1 is high concentrations of poverty, high unemployment and "extreme disparities in quality-of-life circumstances and opportunities in different parts of the city."

Five principles of resilience guide the plan. They include "a prosperous city centered on a vibrant downtown" and ample industrial land "ready for job creation."

The city takes on 17 goals, among them more opportunities and the promotion of healthy communities.

No one in the debates of the past five years wanted anything less than a just and prosperous Fresno for all. The challenge has been figuring out how to maximize community consensus without crushing individual freedom.

City officials said the plan can be reviewed at City Hall's Development and Resource Management Department (Room 3043), the downtown branch of the Fresno County Library (2420 Mariposa Street) or accessed online at www.fresno.gov/newplan.

The 45-day public review period ends Aug. 18. Written comments will go to the Planning Commission and the City Council.

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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