Frequently Asked Questions
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2600 Fresno St
Fresno, CA 93721
2035 GENERAL PLAN UPDATE – FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS & CONCERNS
What is the General Plan?
The General Plan serves as the blueprint for the future land use and growth of the city in the form of maps, goals, objectives, policies, and implementation measures necessary to guide the city’s growth for the next 20 or so years. Virtually all City departments, along with other agency partners and stakeholders will develop their strategies, calculate their capacities and will develop their plans for successive decades contingent on what it prescribes.
Why do we need a General Plan?
State laws require that general plans be updated periodically to reflect population growth and physical changes that occur through development. The City of Fresno last updated its General Plan in November 2002 (commonly referred to as the 2025 General Plan). State law also requires that general plans include seven mandatory elements (i.e., Land Use, Circulation, Open Space, Conservation, Safety, Noise, and Housing). While Fresno’s draft General Plan includes the seven mandated elements, it also contains several optional elements to address local concerns, including Economic Development and Fiscal Sustainability, Historic and Cultural Resources, Healthy Communities, and an Implementation chapter.
Why do we even need an Update? The 2025 General Plan is sufficient.
Municipal code FMC-12-605-G — as well as best practices for cities — requires the General Plan to be updated every 10 years to reflect evolving technology and consumer preferences. The update includes a strong implementation section, and without the implementation the General Plan is not effective.
How long has the City been working on the General Plan Update?
The City of Fresno has been working on this update since 2010. On only five other occasions in our city’s history have we deliberated as a community over our future in the form of adopting a general plan: 1958, 1964, 1974, 1984, and 2002. Our City’s general plan is literally our community’s blueprint for future investment and development.
Has there been any community involvement in this process?
The General Plan Update was assembled with unprecedented levels of public input. Over the last four years, City staff have conducted over 160 stakeholder interviews, made 100 presentations at neighborhood associations and other civic meetings, held 20 public workshops on various issues addressed in the plan, held 24 public meetings led by the General Plan Citizens Advisory Committee, appeared at more than 10 public Planning Commission and City Council meetings, published a citywide bilingual newsletter on the plan, completed a telephone survey of residents, and maintained a website with all meeting information, notes, and staff reports to keep the public updated on progress. In addition, the City has retained planning and development experts from around the state to advise on the development of the plan. The result is the General Plan Update.
What is the Sphere of Influence? Will it grow?
If approved by the City Council, the draft General Plan would change the land use designation of approximately 9,500 parcels within the city’s Sphere of Influence (SOI). The SOI is the probable physical boundary and service area of the City. The draft General Plan designates land uses for all property within the SOI, even though some land may not currently be within the City limits.
Is our Sphere of Influence affected by our population projections? How many people do we anticipate?
The existing 2025 General Plan anticipated a population capacity of approximately 790,000 within the City’s SOI by the year 2025 whereas more recent estimates anticipate a population of 771,000 by the year 2035. The projected population would be accommodated within the city’s current SOI of 160 square miles, of which approximately 110 are currently within the city limits. In short, the proposed General Plan would constrain outward geographic expansion of urban development by increasing the efficiency and intensity of urban land uses within the existing SOI.
How does the City plan on accommodating growth?
The General Plan proposes measures and strategies to accommodate the projected population, together with the development of related commercial, industrial, and public facility uses necessary to serve this population. The proposed General Plan also includes strategies to intensify and coordinate land uses and transportation policies along the City’s principal corridors, such as and Blackstone Ave., and Ventura Ave. and E. Kings Canyon Rd.
The General Plan also includes, but is not limited to changes in nearly all of the community, Specific, and neighborhood Plans in an effort to minimize outward growth.
What happens to those existing Community and Specific Plans? Will the General Plan Update automatically repeal them?
No. In fact, the General Plan Update compliments those plans with a focus on preserving neighborhood character and protecting property values. The Update also supports plans already in progress, such as the Southwest Specific Plan and the Roosevelt Neighborhoods Specific Plan. Some of the community and specific plans are outdated and need to be replaced, but they won’t be repealed until new plans and codes carry forward the protections that they offer. These plans and codes will be created with the participation of the affected neighborhoods.
Is there any truth that the General Plan intends for Fresno to be more dense than San Francisco?
No. At 4,545 people per square mile, Fresno’s density is significantly lower than San Francisco’s 17,867 people per square mile. While the General Plan does call for targeted increases in density in order to revitalize Downtown and to maximize the benefit of infrastructure investments, the overall density of the community will only rise to 5,732 people per square mile under the Plan, and most existing neighborhoods won’t experience any increases in density at all.
Are there going to be more industrial uses planned near low income neighborhoods?
While there are neighborhoods that grew up around employment centers, the development code will provide buffers around any new employment uses including industrial and business parks. In addition, some industrial land uses have been moved from southwest to northwest Fresno.
What about greenfield development? I’ve heard that the Plan Update will result in a moratorium on greenfields?
The General Plan Update calls for two greenfield growth areas which will immediately be available for development. In fact, there is a current inventory of over 10,000 greenfield lots in the incorporated areas representing nearly 10 years of inventory.
Is the General Plan Update too weak to effectively promote infill?
The General Plan Update calls for roughly half of new development in Fresno to occur in the existing incorporated areas. Integration of planned land uses with the updated Development Code will provide the tools needed to effectively develop infill. In addition, the Infill Opportunity Zones (IOZ), along with public investment in infrastructure such as the BRT will incentivize infill in the city.
Does the Plan Update adequately address the needs of underserved communities?
We took great care to provide positive impact to Fresno’s underserved neighborhoods in the 2035 General Plan Update. Most new development over the next 20 years will take place south of Shaw Avenue and there are already Specific Plans in motion that focus on communities in southwest and southeast Fresno. The policy also establishes that future capital improvements will be based on the age and condition of the infrastructure.
Some of the programs that will provide missing infrastructure and amenities to underserved neighborhoods include:
- The No Neighborhood Left Behind program bonded for over $40 million dollars to install infrastructure in deficient areas.
- The City continuously seeks grant dollars to install and/or enhance infrastructure in neighborhoods that lack it. An example is Highway City, where the City was awarded a grant to install sewer and water services, curbs, gutters, and new street pavement.
- The General Plan update’s focus on infill development will help in some cases. Infill development is usually required to provide sidewalks, street furniture, street lights, and street trees when such amenities are absent or substandard.
Why are industrial uses disproportionately located near low income neighborhoods?
Fresno’s original development is similar to that of many other San Joaquin Valley cities: heavy industrial uses tend to be sited in the southern part of the urban area, downwind from the rest of the community. This pattern was established under County jurisdiction, before the City of Fresno’s corporate boundaries expanded to encompass these industrial areas. The General Plan Update can’t un-do the area’s longstanding industrial land use pattern. It is beyond the ability of the City to relocate industrial properties, and there is no feasible way to relocate neighborhoods near industrial areas. However, for decades, the City has been working to improve of conditions in south Fresno so that industrial uses and residents can coexist in a mutually beneficial way. Furthermore, the City has been working in conjunction with regulatory agencies to ensure that industries comply with all regulations for preventing air quality degradation and contamination. California has the most strictly enforced and comprehensive environmental regulatory program in the nation to protect human health, air, water, and the ground from industrial contamination.
How can I be sure that this Plan addresses Disadvantaged Unincorporated Communities (DUCs)?
In compliance with State law, DUCs will be assessed as part of the Housing Element Update in 2015.
As for annexation, DUCs cannot be exempted from revenue-neutral annexation requirements, but the City is willing to work with these communities to find a path forward to annexation if that is their desire. Commentary has been added to the General Plan Update that says the City will work with any disadvantaged unincorporated community, where there is wide support for annexation, to coordinate terms to initiate and support the annexation process. Information has also been added about DUCs in the Plan that explains that our State-required analysis will be done as part of our next Housing Element Update in 2015, in compliance with State law.
What does the General Plan do to prevent gentrification and ensure affordable housing?
Gentrification tends to be caused by severe housing shortages in areas with strong demand, such as the San Francisco Peninsula and Manhattan. The General Plan Update provides ample opportunities for the creation of sufficient housing of various types to serve a variety of needs, and encourages such housing to be created across the City. There are a number of policies that speak to the need to provide stability, investment, and affordability to established neighborhoods for both residents and businesses.
Are you doing anything to finally start promoting parks in underserved neighborhoods?
It is true that some older parts of Fresno have lower amounts of parkland land than newer areas. Older neighborhoods did not have the benefit of more recent tools and laws for creating open space, and parks tended to be established only when land was donated.
The good news is that more opportunities are being pursued. This plan has designated more acres of park space in southwest Fresno than in any other part of the city. The Plan Update will also identify opportunities to add park space to other established neighborhoods through mechanisms such as co-location with other facilities and joint use agreements. The City is working with Fresno Unified School District on the shared use of open space on their campuses, which can provide recreational space in deficient areas.
Why are we locating parks near freeways? The air quality is poor in those locations.
The City doesn’t want to limit available opportunities for greenspace and developing greenbelts and pocket parks along freeways can provide a buffer to adjacent properties which can also increase property values. Open space, trees and other green features enhance and beautify freeway corridors and improve air quality.
The benefit of remnant parcels near freeways is that they can be acquired for little or no cost. This is due to the fact that because of the size and shape of these parcels they don’t lend well to other uses. It is an opportunity to provide a larger value at a lower cost including providing much needed recreation space. Placing an active use on a formerly vacant lot can also address illegal dumping issues. However, we do recognize concerns from the community that there are health concerns associated with locating recreational space near freeways. Many other cities including LA and SF are creatively addressing this issue and we can look to them as a model. We can look into using mitigation measures such as using walls, tree lines, and designing for more passive rather than active recreation.
What about the overconcentration of liquor stores, particularly in low income areas south of Shaw?
The community will have an opportunity to address the location, separation, and number of package liquor stores as part of the update of our Development Code.
What can the City do to promote biking in underrepresented/underserved neighborhoods?
In recent years the City has made an effort to provide more bike lanes and paths, and the General Plan proposes to continue this program. The City will also continue its cooperative efforts with organizations which donate refurbished bikes to low income individuals. Finally, the Development and Resource Management (DARM) Department requires the installation of bike racks in new development projects to help deter bicycle theft and to make biking more convenient.
How does the Plan Update provide affordable and equitable transit to all Fresnans, including non-automotive transportation?
Fresno Area Express provides transit service to all ages and abilities. The routing of Fresno Area Express buses already favors lower income neighborhoods. Routes are determined periodically based on anticipated ridership (transit demand), including demographics and availability of cars to households (both factors which weigh in favor of lower income neighborhoods). The Plan Update also provides a wide variety of transportation options for the greatest amount of choices: walk, ride a bike, take a bus, drive a car, etc.
What about the rumors that the General Plan will limit my housing options, make driving inconvenient, and prevents the market from deciding what should be built?
They’re wrong. One of the highlights of this Plan is that it actually promotes freedom of opportunity and strives to create a City that offers even more choices to cover a wide variety of lifestyle preferences. While suburban living is desirable to many Fresnans, needs and tastes are evolving, and often change throughout a person’s lifetime. For instance, someone may desire an urban apartment in a busy Downtown district as a young single adult, but move to a single family home with a large backyard in an auto-oriented area when married and raising children, and then downsize to a townhouse in a walkable neighborhood as an empty nester.
Fresno is big enough to accommodate these varied options so that our citizens can stay in Fresno when their preferences change. Traditional suburban choices will continue to be an important part of this expanding menu of options, but should not be the only lifestyle available for those who need and want alternatives. The Plan Update opens up choices, not take them away.
What does the Plan do to improve the flow of traffic?
Forbes ranked Fresno #4 nationally based on the number of workers who got to work under 20 minutes. The Plan balances the need to minimize traffic congestion while not overbuilding transportation systems that are too costly.
It also commits to the most effective transportation system possible. When feasible and when funding exists, road improvements have been and will continue to be made. Further, the General Plan provides for a more thoughtful approach to such widenings, because in some cases they have been undertaken at great cost to relieve congestion for the most busy 15-minute period of the day, while at all other times they result in excess roadway.
Will the City’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system require operating subsidies?
All transportation systems, including roads and airports, require public operating subsidies, BRT will be no different. The benefits, such as improved access to transportation, justify the investment. BRT will alleviate congested roadways, improve air quality, and enhance the business climate by bringing consumers closer to businesses. The investment in Bus Rapid Transit will promote Downtown revitalization, neighborhood revitalization, and infrastructure-efficient infill development along the corridors—all of which will benefit City revenue streams.
Does the Plan Update eliminate cul-de-sacs?
As long as pedestrian options are available to connect neighborhoods to adjacent services and shopping, there is not an issue with cul-de-sacs. However, an overreliance on cul-de-sacs has unnecessarily lengthened driving trips and made walking difficult throughout much of Fresno. This leads to more traffic congestion and worse air quality, and therefore the General Plan proposes more interconnected street patterns. The beneficial traffic calming attributes of cul-de-sacs can be accomplished with other street design connects that don’t impede connectivity.
Who pays for infrastructure in new growth areas?
Fresno’s post-WWII growth pattern focused primarily on development at the fringe of the City, and has proven to be highly inefficient and expensive to service. It is widely acknowledged infrastructure in such low-density auto-oriented places cost more to construct and maintain. In addition to being more efficient with infrastructure, the more compact development patterns promoted in the General Plan Update also reduce the conversion of agricultural land to urban uses, reduce water use, optimize passive heating and cooling opportunities.
Why do some planned land uses appear to require a different density than the density of approved tentative maps for subdivisions?
All tentative and final maps submitted and approved before the General Plan goes into effect will be honored. We will also update the map in effort with the Annual Progress Report to ensure it reflects both accurate and best planned land uses. All pre-existing entitlements will be allowed to develop regardless of classification in the plan.
How can we approve a new General Plan before we approve a new Development Code?
While the General Plan establishes the long range Vision for the City, the Development Code establishes regulations to ensure that development proposals are in harmony with the Vision of the General Plan. Therefore, until the General Plan is finalized and adopted it isn’t practical to finish the Development Code. It is very typical for the implementing zoning to be brought forward after the adoption of a General Plan.
After the General Plan is adopted, the public review draft of the Development Code will be completed and released, and there will be plenty of opportunity to comment on it. In addition to implementing the vision of the General Plan, the new Development Code will also be a significant improvement over the current Code in several ways, including:
- Logical organization and user-friendly format
- Emphasis on tables and graphics rather than only text
- Simplified and modernized land use classifications
- Clear and consistent development standards
- Improved design requirements
- Improved the project review and approval process
- Reduced need for negotiated approvals and discretionary permits
If we restrict new growth areas, won’t development just leapfrog over to Madera, Kerman, Sanger, Clovis, etc.?
The passage of SB 375 (2008) and the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (2014) — which applies to all California cities and counties equally — dramatically impacts how and whether leapfrog development can occur.
Is it true that the Plan Update doesn’t do enough to preserve farmland?
The General Plan Update contains a policy to create a farmland preservation program. In addition, this Plan pursues measures that will indirectly help reduce the loss of farmland, such as greater incentives for infill development. The Plan also does not expand Fresno’s Sphere of Influence (SOI).
How will policies be implemented, strengthened, and monitored?
Chapter 12 of the General Plan Update, Implementation, provides a list of Implementation Actions, Responsible Parties, and the Timing of when actions should occur. Moreover, the General Plan requires that the Planning Director prepare an annual report to the City Council that will outline the past year’s accomplishments and shortcomings, while also describing the goals for the upcoming year.
Where may I review a copy?
Copies are available at three locations.
1. By clicking www.fresno.gov/newplan
2. At the City of Fresno, Development and Resource Management Department, 2600 Fresno Street Third Floor - Room 3043, Fresno, CA 93721.
3. Any of the 10 Fresno County Libraries in the City of Fresno.
Who may I contact for additional information?
Arnoldo Rodriguez, AICP, Planning Manager, at email@example.com or at 559.621.8172.