Fresno Councilman Garry Bredefeld announced Wednesday he wants the city to offer a “money-back guarantee” to builders whose projects are delayed by red tape.
But he’s getting pushback from Mayor Lee Brand. The two would be rivals if Bredefeld runs for mayor in 2020.
“This will bring real accountability,” Bredefeld said at a news conference at City Hall attended by builders.
“A money-back guarantee ensures that if you don’t make a timeline that the city sets, then there will be a reimbursement of fees or a credit of fees that have already been paid,” he said.
Reached for comment, Brand said Bredefeld’s news conference was grandstanding.
“It’s a gimmick or publicity stunt,” Brand said. “Press conferences and tweets won’t solve real problems.”
A major problem with the proposal is that the money Bredefeld is talking about possibly returning to developers would come out of the same pot of money used to pay for public safety, which could affect the hiring of police officers, Brand said.
Asked about that, Bredefeld said, “I hope we never have to return one penny.”
Bredefeld said that he has been working on the proposal with fellow council members Steve Brandau and Luis Chavez, and they support it.
Brand said he’s spoken with both council members and reached a different conclusion, however.
“He has no support at all,” Brand said. “He put out a press release. It’ll go nowhere.”
Brandau said he supports Bredefeld’s money-back guarantee concept and that the three council members have been talking about it for a month. But, he said, “I need to see more work done on it … We need to be sure there’s a high probability of success” to avoid adversely impacting the general fund.
Said Chavez, “It needs more vetting … …I do not support the money-back guarantee coming from the general fund.”
Brand said that as a former property manager who has built homes and apartments, he knows that dealing with a bureaucracy can be frustrating.
“I’m the first to say there’s room for improvement, (but) it’s got to be done correctly,” he said.
The city is about to roll out a new program – Better Business Fresno 2.0 – to make it easier for builders and the public to communicate with the city to get their projects approved, he said.
Brand said he met twice with Bredefeld and believed he had agreed to delay his news conference until April, after the program’s rollout.
Bredefeld said he supports Better Business Fresno 2.0, but he believes it won’t be enough to solve bureaucratic inertia because “it’s a quagmire at City Hall … we have to change the culture.”
The time for action is now, he said. “We cannot just reshuffle the chairs on the Titantic anyone and think there’s going to be different outcomes.”
Ali Nekumanesh, executive vice president of Deli Delicious, said he has a building project in northwest Fresno for which he paid $3,500 in fees, but the city’s approval took four months. Delays ended up costing the project, he said.
“We have to learn from other municipalities,” such as Denver, he said.