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How much good can be done in five years with $66 million in southwest Fresno?

The city is moving full steam ahead on its Transform Fresno plan, which is expected to pump $66.5 million into downtown, Chinatown and southwest Fresno.

The Fresno City Council on Thursday is poised to approve the Transformative Climate Communities grant agreement with the state Strategic Growth Council for money geared toward projects that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Both Mayor Lee Brand and Council Member Miguel Arias said Tuesday the council is expected to unanimously approve the agreement.

“For many years, southwest Fresno and west Fresno was neglected,” Brand said. “This addresses a long-term neglect that, beyond the financial contributions, is almost a moral obligation for the city of Fresno.”

The TCC agreement required the city to match 50 percent of the funding for projects — but through private and public partnerships, $111 million of “leveraged funds” was identified in the agreement.

The state money will be used for 24 projects such as a community college campus in west Fresno and affordable housing in Chinatown, along with smaller projects for bike lanes, a community garden and solar power for homes.

The list of projects was proposed by and prioritized by a number of community groups and residents in what’s called participatory budgeting. It was heralded by Fresno leaders as historic and innovative.

“I think it’s clear that when various factions of the community come together in this way, the reward is greater than the sum of the parts,” said Tara Lynn Gray, CEO of the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce.

Although it may be an exciting time, city and community leaders said now is when the real work will begin. The city and its partners must meet strict deadlines to complete the projects in five years.

Three plans that remain momentarily incomplete under the agreement are the plans for community engagement, workforce development and displacement avoidance.

The plans will be finalized in the first quarter of the grant term, according to grant agreement.

Grecia Elenes, a policy advocate with Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability, said she hopes the city tackles those plans sooner rather than later, noting the Strategic Growth Council will expect them.

“This next phase, it’s huge,” she said. “I’m hoping the city really does do right by these communities that have historically been disinvested in, and continues to engage them in these processes. There are hundreds of individuals involved who want to work collaboratively with the city despite the history there. They want to see their community be a better place.”

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Brianna Calix covers politics and investigations for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.
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