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Fresno locks down options on land for HSR maintenance yard

High Speed Rail

Fresno locks down options on land for HSR maintenance yard

It looks like city officials have locked up the land for high-speed rail’s heavy maintenance facility, should the bullet-train gods smile on Fresno.

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Mayor Lee Brand will take a powerful trump card with him when he heads to Spain next week in search of jobs for Fresno.

It looks like city officials have locked up the land for high-speed rail’s heavy maintenance facility, should the bullet-train gods smile on Fresno.

City Hall in May agreed to spend $210,000 to secure options to buy six properties in the area south of town that is Fresno’s pick for the facility.

The money came from a short-term loan from the general fund. Public Works Director Scott Mozier on June 29 asked the Fresno County Transportation Authority to reimburse the city in full from Measure C funds.

The Transportation Authority did so.

The complex and sometimes controversial local campaign to land the heavy maintenance facility appears to be working.

First, let’s take a quick look at key details in the six options:

1.) Seller: Sukhjinder Romana, sole trustee of the KR Trust, 50% interest; Karnail Singh Sidhu and Manjit K. Singh, trustees of the Sidhu Family Trust, 50% interest.

Buyer: City of Fresno.

Cost of option: $25,000 for one year; City of Fresno can renew the option for another year for another $25,000.

Purchase price of the property: $610,000.

2.) Seller: Kirk Yergat and Kathy Yergat, trustees under the Kirk and Kathy Yergat Revocable Living Trust Agreement.

Buyer: City of Fresno.

Cost of option: $25,000 for one year; City of Fresno can renew the option for another year for another $25,000.

Purchase price of the property: $764,000.

3.) Seller: Anna Zabella Yergat, trustee under the Anna Zabella Yergat Revocable Living Trust Agreement.

Buyer: City of Fresno.

Cost of option: $25,000.

Purchase price of the property: $816,257.

4.) Seller: Richard Lazarus and Rose Mary Lazarus-Proctor, co-trustees of the Richard and Rose Lazarus Trust.

Buyer: City of Fresno.

Cost of option: $25,000 for one year; City of Fresno can renew the option for another year for another $25,000.

Purchase price of the property: $600,000.

5.) Seller: Kirk Yergat and Kathy Yergat, trustees under the Kirk Yergat and Kathy Yergat Revocable Living Trust Agreement.

Buyer: City of Fresno.

Cost of option: $50,000 for one year; City of Fresno can renew the option for another year for another $50,000.

Purchase price of the property: $3,419,743.

6.) Seller: Harjinder Kaur Pooni, Trustee of the Harjinder Kaur Pooni Revocable Trust.

Buyer: City of Fresno.

Cost of option: $60,000; City of Fresno can renew the option for another year for another $60,000.

Purchase price of the property: $1 million.

The option agreements (I got copies from the Transportation Authority through a state Public Records Act request) don’t list the size of each property. I gather from previous news reports that the proposed heavy maintenance facility site totals about 250 acres.

Interim-Assistant City Manager Bruce Rudd told me on Thursday that the state High-Speed Rail Authority is responsible for buying some of the land within the proposed site’s boundaries. The site is next to the bullet-train’s route.

The Bee’s Tim Sheehan reported in October 2016 that the City Council had authorized city officials to continue negotiating with owners of 166 acres within the site.

The Fresno region’s candidate for the heavy maintenance facility is a rectangular area along Cedar Avenue between American and Clayton avenues.

Sheehan has been at the forefront of reporting on efforts by Fresno/Fresno County leaders to convince bullet-train officials to pick the Cedar Avenue site for the facility. The obvious bonanza is an estimated 1,500 good-paying jobs.

Leaders in counties up and down the Valley want the facility, as well. A weak spot in Fresno’s pitch has been the uncertainty of acquiring the land at a fair price. The proposed site has multiple property owners.

It would be only natural for a property owner to raise her price if she knew her land was already picked to be part of the heavy maintenance facility.

Money for the options comes from $25 million of Measure C funds set aside to buy land for the facility. The $25 million can also be used for infrastructure on the site.

But none of the money, other than that used for securing the options, will be spent on the bullet train project if Fresno doesn’t get the facility. The property owners keep their option money if another site is picked.

City Hall is the buyer of record on the option agreements. But City Hall wouldn’t keep the land if Fresno gets the facility. The High-Speed Rail Authority would own the site.

Local leaders say $25 million is a wise investment should Fresno be selected. There’s no telling when the bullet-train folks will pick a winner.

How do the secured options help Mayor Brand on his trip overseas?

It was explained to me that Brand will leave on Sept. 22 for Spain. One of the potential operators of the bullet-train system is a Spanish company. It only makes sense for the operator of California’s bullet-train system to have a big say in picking the site for something as important as the heavy maintenance facility.

Brand is making a long journey to sell Fresno as the best site. Land acquisition is no longer the Fresno region’s Achilles heel.

In our Thursday afternoon chat, Rudd said it’s imperative that the heavy maintenance facility be located in a spot best suited to the extensive testing that will precede the bullet-train’s service going live.

“Where better than Fresno County?”

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George Hostetter

George Hostetter is a contributor to CVObserver and advisor to The Collegian, the student newspaper of Fresno State.

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