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Better air, more jobs seen with $70M climate grant given to Fresno for low-income areas

A new satellite campus of Fresno City College is among the plans for a 115-acre development on this property south of Church Avenue and west of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Fresno is receiving a $70 million state grant to advance the college campus and other projects with the dual goals of reducing air pollution and promoting economic development for low-income parts of the city.
A new satellite campus of Fresno City College is among the plans for a 115-acre development on this property south of Church Avenue and west of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Fresno is receiving a $70 million state grant to advance the college campus and other projects with the dual goals of reducing air pollution and promoting economic development for low-income parts of the city. Fresno Bee file

A new Fresno City College satellite campus in southwest Fresno is the flagship project in a package of plans that won a $70 million grant from the California Strategic Growth Council on Monday.

The council awarded three grants amounting to $140 million from the Transformative Climate Communities program for disadvantaged communities. The money comes from cap-and-trade funds paid by companies into California’s greenhouse gas-reduction program for air pollution credits to offset their own emissions.

Projects in Fresno are in the downtown, Chinatown and southwest neighborhoods. Simply put, the funds will help the city make climate and economic improvememts.

In addition to Fresno, the state announced that the Los Angeles community of Watts and the city of Ontario in San Bernardino County will receive $35 million each in TCC grants. The allocation of half of the state’s available TCC funds to Fresno reflects the Strategic Growth Council’s recognition that portions of the city are among the most economically challenged communities in California.

“This substantial investment in disadvantaged communities will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide environmental, economic and health benefits in ways that will have a profound impact on the quality of life of local residents,” said Ken Alex, chairman of the Strategic Growth Council and director of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Office of Planning and Research.

Fresno’s goal with the array of projects is to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by more than 28,600 metric tons, in addition to business development, improving career-training opportunities and creating jobs for low-income residents.

“This $70 million will lead to triple the investment in economic development – and that will mean more jobs and better services for everyone,” Mayor Lee Brand said. “This funding will be the catalyst for further investment that will help Fresno bring new life to our most vulnerable communities.”

The satellite college campus is proposed as part of a larger plan for development at the southwest corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Church Avenue. Fresno’s application sought $16.9 million, which would augment a commitment of about $40 million from the State Center Community College District.

Other highlights of Fresno’s proposal include a project to build affordable housing in Chinatown near a future high-speed rail station; energy-efficiency projects such as installing residential solar and other energy improvements for homes; “urban greening” projects including tree planting, bike pathways and street improvements; creation of electric vehicle-sharing programs for cars and van pools and a bike-share program; improvements to the Mariposa Plaza between Fulton Street and the high-speed rail station at H Street; and an urban forestry project with a community orchard.

Fresno is already coordinating with the organizations and agencies that are co-applicants for each of the individual projects to line up the matching funds they’ve committed to combine with the grant, said H Spees, the mayor’s director of strategic initiatives. Spees said it will likely take several months of contract negotiations with the state before the grant money begins to flow.

“We are really paying attention to make sure we are performing at a very high rate in terms of quality and performance,” Spees said of the city’s role as the lead applicant for the money. “We want to build a community-development conduit that connects downtown, Chinatown and southwest Fresno.

“It’s all about leverage (to attract) other resources coming into the community,” Spees said. “In three years, if we can see all of these projects performing at a high level, then we will see some incredible improvement” in the affected neighborhoods.

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