Historic Fresno dairy buildings face demolition

The Fresno City Council on a 4-3 vote decided not to add two unoccupied dairy buildings dating back to the Great Depression to the city’s historical registry.

The decision came after nearly an hour of spirited debate between the council and community members. Councilmen Oliver Baines and Sal Quintero and Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria were in favor of the proposal.

Producer’s Dairy, the owner of the buildings, plans to demolish them to make room for a parking lot, which it claims is necessary due to the California High Speed Rail Authority taking a chunk of its existing parking at its main facility.

The two red-brick buildings are located at 450 E. Belmont Ave. on the west side of the Tower District. They have not been used for some time and are badly in need of repair.

Demolition of the buildings can’t begin until Producer’s obtains several permits, but the dairy plans to move forward.

The city’s historic preservation project manager, Karana Hattersley-Drayton, joined several Tower District residents arguing to save the buildings, which were built in 1929 and 1932.

Councilman Clint Olivier appeared to be on the fence before the vote. He asked Hattersley-Drayton what would be done to the buildings – which he noted are covered in graffiti and boarded up – if they were added to the registry. She told the council that Producer’s would be required to pay for repairs.

“What if they don’t?” Olivier said.

“Well, the response would be similar to what code enforcement does …” Hattersley-Drayton said.

Oliver interjected: “That means it would be months or years before they would be fixed.”

“We have a bit more teeth than code enforcement,” she responded.

“But what exactly will you do to make them fix it up?” Olivier countered.

Hattersley-Drayton hesitated. “I feel as if I am being trapped.”

Olivier than asked the Producer’s representative if his company had any interest in fully restoring the buildings. The company does not, saying it’s already spending tens of millions of dollars to expand its current dairy business.

Olivier then abruptly ended the discussion, and the matter went to the vote. He provided the deciding vote against the project.