Any middle-aged Valley resident facing the decision of what to do with an aging parent knows that finding care can be challenging. If the senior has memory issues, the quest becomes even tougher.
And that difficulty is only going to become more acute as the so-called “gray wave” starts swamping California. The population of people over age 60 is growing and will only increase.
So it was disheartening to watch the Clovis City Council last week signal that it will likely deny a proposed senior living center on a 3.57-acre piece of land on Nees Avenue, just east of Willow Avenue. O’Brien Development was seeking approval to build assisted living for 84 seniors and specialized care for 28 seniors dealing with memory issues.
Neighbors adjacent to the open parcel told the council they fear disruption to their lives in the form of heavier traffic, noise and how close it would be to their homes. A key sticking point is how large the project is for the parcel. “When we moved into this neighborhood we were told there was going to be 10 homes built on that property,” Jake Gallinetti, a resident of Buchanan Estates, told the council. “Many of us would not have purchased our homes if we knew this type of intense development was going to be built there.”
Fair enough. Residents are expected to look out for their own interests.
But the Clovis planning department assured the council that the developer had taken steps to keep impacts to an acceptable level. Traffic would not exceed amounts that would require a special analysis, and noise would be minimal, the city staff’s report says. Planners also thought the overall design would fit in well with existing neighborhoods.
It should be noted that homes are not the only things found along that stretch of Nees Avenue. To the west are two sizable shopping centers, with one having a Trader Joe’s, a Starbucks and a SaveMart supermarket, keen customer draws (that means traffic).
On the immediate eastside of the open lot is a preschool. Further east is the Garfield Elementary-Alta Sierra Intermediate-Buchanan High complex. Its athletic facilities get almost year-round use. And a Mormon church is located at Peach and Nees. So mixed uses are well established in that part of town.
Perhaps most importantly, the senior living project upholds Clovis’ goal of having a diversity of housing types that benefit all ages of people.
The council’s obligation is to see the bigger picture, and the population of aging seniors in California is rapidly growing. According to the California State Plan on Aging, Fresno County had 131,780 residents age 60 or older in 2010. By 2030, that number will be 237,916 – an increase of 81 percent.
The Clovis council still has to take a formal vote on Monday night to turn down the project, but the city attorney said denial was all but done. We hope the council will exercise its authority to reconsider.
Going forward, the council – and their counterparts elsewhere in Fresno County – need to take the senior-housing need seriously, and ensure such development when those opportunities arise. With every proposal, the “not in my backyard” syndrome will again rise up. Decision makers will have to show fortitude that, sadly, has been lacking in Clovis this time around.