Fresno County’s old juvenile hall complex in southeast Fresno is once again up for sale, after county supervisors voted Tuesday to declare the 12.6 acres as surplus and set a minimum price of $1.5 million for the property.
The declaration follows an unsuccessful attempt last fall to do the same thing. That effort fell short when then-supervisors Debbie Poochigian and Henry Perea voted no, keeping it from the required four-fifths “supermajority” vote needed to make the surplus declaration. Since then, Poochigian and Perea opted not to seek new terms and were replaced by Nathan Magsig and Sal Quintero.
“This is the fourth time it’s been before the board,” board Chairman Brian Pacheco said, “but there are new members here and no one’s running for office just yet.”
The county’s internal services director, Robert Bash, had recommended that supervisors set the minimum price at $2.1 million, based on appraisals that he acknowledged are several years old and assumed that the value was for bare land, rather than on the aging buildings on the property. “The board can reject any offer that it deems not acceptable, but with the assumption that clearing the land would be necessary, the recommended price could still be considered a reach,” Bash said.
But Magsig suggested, and the board’s 5-0 vote approved, setting $1.5 million as the minimum price, provided that any offers received be based on more current appraisals. “I want to give you as much flexibility to market this piece of property in today’s and tomorrow’s (real estate) environment,” Magsig told Bash.
In a staff memo, Bash noted that the property is made up of 12 different parcels. The largest chunk was originally purchased by the county in 1897 for $7,000 in gold coins. Now, however, the northernmost portions of the property are worth less than it would cost to demolish the structures – an estimated land value of $1.38 million, compared to demolition costs of $1.48 million.
“Demolition costs are killing this potential project,” Supervisor Andreas Borgeas said.
The remainder of the property has an approximate land value of about $815,000, Bash said.
Over the last eight or 10 years, most every department that’s had need for a piece of property has been asked to look at this (site) and see if it meets their needs.
Robert Bash, Fresno County internal services director
Magsig said he believes the property is actually costing the county money, because, as government property, it generates no property taxes for the county. He added that ongoing maintenance costs – detailed by Bash at more than $126,000 a year for the vacant buildings – are also a burden on the county.
The former juvenile hall buildings on the site have been vacant since the new Juvenile Justice Center on American Avenue west of Highway 99 opened in 2006. The county probation office still uses some of the old buildings, but is looking to move if the property is sold.
Magsig and Quintero said they want to work together to explore whether any other county offices might be able to use any of the buildings. Bash said the county has tried that, but to no avail. “Over the last eight or 10 years, most every department that’s had need for a piece of property has been asked to look at this (site) and see if it meets their needs,” Bash said. “It’s either been cost prohibitive (to remodel or rebuild), or just does not meet the requirements of the departments.”
But Quintero wants to keep trying. Because there are multiple parcels there, he said, the sale of some might help underwrite the development of others for county uses, including a possible dispatch center for emergency services. But Magsig and Quintero concurred that the surplus declaration provided plenty of time for them to investigate those possibilities before any actual sale would be affirmed by the board.
Supervisor Buddy Mendes was not enthusiastic about Quintero’s idea. “I am absolutely against piecemealing this off,” he said. “If we do this, we’ll be holding a sack of stuff that nobody else wants and we’ll have an albatross around our neck that we can’t even get rid of.”
“I’m just asking for a chance,” Quintero replied.
Other government agencies will have the first chance at the property, with a 60-day period for them to express interest. If that yields no offers, then the property could go on the open real estate market.