Clovis residents fighting to keep senior housing development out of their neighborhood

The developer of a proposed senior living complex in northwest Clovis is expected to face off against worried neighbors on Monday as he seeks zoning approval from the City Council.

Neighbors complain that the 3.57-acre project on Nees Avenue, just east of Willow Avenue, will lower property values, increase traffic and isn't well suited for their quiet, tree-lined community.

The project, planned by O'Brien Development, will provide assisted living housing for 84 seniors and specialized care for 28 seniors dealing with memory issues, including Alzheimer's disease and dementia. It will be managed by Integral Senior Living, operator of more than 50 senior living developments in the U.S., including The Windham Senior Living in Fresno.

Matt O'Brien, owner of O'Brien Development LLC in San Diego , said the development is badly needed in Clovis, an area whose existing senior living developments are at or near capacity.

"There are not a lot of places for our Clovis seniors to age in place and find the help and housing they need," said O'Brien, a Fresno State grad with roots in Clovis.

This will be O'Brien's second attempt to get the project off the ground. The Clovis City Council rejected a similar proposal he presented in 2015, saying the project was "too intense for the space."

But O'Brien said he's made significant changes, including redirecting traffic flow, reducing the height of some of the buildings and adding more outdoor amenities, like green space, walking paths, a gazebo and water feature. He's won approval from the Clovis Planning Commission, it's now in the council's hands.

Neighbors admit that while the project may have value to the community, but argue that it's in the wrong place. They said the L-shaped lot is too small.

A house is shown located where an access driveway may be placed for a proposed assisted-living center at this empty lot along Nees Avenue just east of Willow Avenue in Clovis. Photographed Friday, June 15, 2018. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

Residents, like Hilda Forrest, don't want it built so close to the neighborhood's homes. She lives in Buchanan Estates, an upscale neighborhood that sits just to the west of the proposed project.

"They will be entering our private neighborhood with more traffic, shining lights onto our houses from their parking lot and possibly emergency vehicles coming and going during all hours of the night and day," said Forrest, a 17-year resident of the area.

Eric Cymanski, a neighbor of Forrest's, said he also is concerned about the increase in traffic and activity from the housing development. He said any more traffic on Nees Avenue will make it dangerous for motorists and pedestrians.

"To me, it's going to become a safety hazard," he said. "There are kids walking back and forth from Garfield Elementary all the time."

A traffic analysis shows that the project is estimated to generate 32 trips during the peak p.m. hours of the day. That wasn't enough to raise any concerns from the city's planning department. In its report, city staff said the increase in traffic was "well below the established minimum thresholds."

O'Brien said traffic will flow in and out of Nees Avenue. A gate on Kenosha Avenue, inside the Buchanan Estates development, will be used by garbage trucks, fire and police. He also agreed to a request from Clovis Unified schools to not have delivery trucks visit the property from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., a busy time for dropping kids off at school.

"The neighbors' concerns are valid and we have tried to alleviate a lot of their concerns," O'Brien said.

O'Brien said a survey of the 16 memory care and assisted living facilities in the Fresno and Clovis area shows that most are at capacity or close to it.

"We know we can build a quality community that serves the seniors of Clovis," he said.

The Clovis City Council meets Monday, June 18, at 6 p.m. in the council chambers, 1033 Fifth Street, Clovis.