Around 25 business owners and supporters of Fresno’s Chinatown gathered Sunday afternoon to share their concerns about the imminent high-speed rail construction along Kern and F streets.
Road closures and construction are set to begin March 30, moving utility lines to make way for the future rail line.
Jeremy Brownstein, a business owner and board president of Chinatown Revitalization Inc., listed many concerns, including that Spanish- and Chinese-speaking business owners have not been notified of the construction or had their questions answered by the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
Verta Gonzalez, who runs Floreria Rubi at 1515 Tulare St., said she had no idea about the coming construction. She worried it will affect her business, which moved in November from down the block. Customers just started coming regularly again, she said.
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Gonzalez said business owners who speak English perhaps are able to defend themselves better.
“It’s like they think Mexicans don’t matter,” she said of the rail authority.
Rail authority spokeswoman Lisa Alley said agency employees, many of whom speak Spanish, go door-to-door handing out information about construction three to six weeks in advance. She said written notifications are also provided in Spanish, Hmong and Chinese.
However, a check through the rail authority’s website, Facebook and Twitter pages found no posted notifications about the upcoming construction. A notice about road closures earlier this month was written in English with lines at the bottom in Spanish, Hmong and Chinese saying, “For more information or questions, please call (559) 248-6373 or visit our website www.hsr.ca.gov.”
Among other concerns, Chinatown Revitalization leaders worry that business owners west of Kern Street and south of Kern on F Street were not notified of the work despite their customers using both routes to reach the businesses. They also pointed out that signage for construction states the wrong start date — March 25.
Alley said the group has never felt the rail authority does enough.
“We will continue to do our due diligence in Chinatown, but this specific organization is going to find ways to bring us to the forefront because they’re not necessarily going to be happy with whatever answer we give them,” she said.
Eric Tange, 28, of Clovis attended Sunday’s meeting as a Chinatown supporter. He said he realizes development is important to revitalize the city, but hopes for a balance that’s understanding of business’ needs.
“Growing up here, it’s part of my culture. I used to eat at Central Fish and Kogetsu-Do,” he said. “It’s kind of a special place.”
Lynn Ikeda, who owns Kogetsu-Do Confectionery, also attended. She worries the construction will affect her safety.
Ikeda starts her days early, arriving at the shop before the sun is up, and always parks right in front. With construction along F Street, she’ll have to walk at least three blocks in the dark.
“If I’m by myself and there’s someone out there, I call the PD to make sure I can get into my building safely,” she said.
The 520-mile rail system would link San Francisco and Los Angeles through the Valley with trains capable of traveling at 220 mph. The rail authority plans to spend about $6 billion to begin construction from Madera to Bakersfield. The full San Francisco-Los Angeles system is estimated to cost about $68 billion by the time it’ss completed in 2028.