July 1 is the true New Year’s Day as far as Fresno City Hall policymakers are concerned. It’s the beginning of a new fiscal year. We get a fresh start at self-governance.
I give you three examples of what that means in the real world.
First, the City Council last Thursday approved the FY 2018-19 budget.
Said Mayor Lee Brand in a news release: “I want to thank our Councilmembers for their support in passing our second budget together. We had considerable debate over the fairest and most sensible way to achieve our goals, but in the end the public will benefit from a budget that addresses the most critical needs in our city.
“Moving forward, we must continue to utilize our limited resources to their fullest extent to provide the best possible service to our residents, and keep our focus on building our economy and developing new revenue streams to properly fund our priorities and make Fresno a better and safer place to live.”
Second, City Hall last week also announced that the California Strategic Growth Council has awarded $16 million from the state Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program to a mixed-use housing project on Blackstone Avenue.
I gather that the award pretty much guarantees the construction of the proposed “Blackstone & McKinley Transit Oriented Development” project near Fresno City College. The state money will go toward construction and city infrastructure improvements. All told, the project will deliver an investment of more than $38 million.
The project (on the west side of Blackstone, south of McKinley Avenue) is to have 88 affordable housing units and 6,000 square feet of retail space. Construction is expected to begin in 2019, with the grand opening tentatively slated for 2020. The developer partners are Integrated Community Development and Corporation for Better Housing.
Said Brand in a news release: “This was a collaborative effort between City leaders, the developer and the community to bring much needed affordable housing amenities to the Blackstone Corridor. This is exactly the kind of project that will bring a dynamic addition to our central city and increase the momentum that is already building along Fresno’s most famous street.”
The project site is in Council President Esmeralda Soria’s District 1. Soria in the same news release said: “Through its support of this project, the City of Fresno has made a commitment to invest in programs that will provide long term sustainable economic growth and address the housing needs of our community. This investment kicks off the Blackstone Corridor transformation.”
Finally, our hopes for Veterans Boulevard will take a slightly different tack in the new fiscal year.
We’re about $45 million short of the cash needed to finish construction of the major thoroughfare that would greatly reduce transportation woes to the West of Highway 99 area. The local dream was that Veterans Boulevard would receive that amount from the newest round of federal INFRA grants.
The Fresno Council of Governments learned last month that the Veterans Boulevard project did not make the final INFRA cut.
Said a COG report to the COG Policy Board: “While disappointing, this news was not a major surprise. Only two projects were awarded in California: the Centennial Connector in Bakersfield and the Interstate 5 Golden State Chokepoint Relief Program in Santa Clarita. Staff anticipates that the City of Fresno will work to debrief its application with U.S. Department of Transportation and resubmit during the next round of funding.”
Council Member Steve Brandau, whose District 2 includes a substantial portion of the Veterans Boulevard path, told me last week that that City Hall will also pursue a state grant in this fiscal year. That grant would be for about $25 million. He said he thinks Fresno has an excellent chance of getting it.
Twenty-five million dollars, Brandau said, “would put us within striking range” of making Veterans Boulevard a reality.