The Fresno City Council has approved subsidizing some of the fees developers pay with money from Measure C, the sales tax voters approved for transportation projects.
There's the argument that downtown is already getting too much help, and also, that money voters assumed would go for streets and buses is going to help developers, but the majority of the council agreed downtown is a transportation hub worthy of help.
Increasing residential development in Downtown Fresno, putting more people in one place, and reducing urban sprawl is seen as one way to improve the regions transportation problems. That's why the committee that oversees the Measure C sales tax funds agreed to make seven hundred thousand dollars available to encourage downtown growth. Assistant City Manager Bruce Rudd explained it to the city council.
"The reason downtown is identified is because it has the highest concentration of public transportation, it is the most walkable of the areas within the community and has the highest potential for mixed-use development," Rudd said.
Downtown Development Director Craig Scharton says the money will be used to encourage dense development by covering the fees for things and police protection developers usually pay.
"So 18 units or more per acre will have a reduction in fees which is about $5 thousand per unit. So, it incentivizes downtown development near public transportation," Scharton said.
But Council President Clint Olivier objected. "I voted no because I am not exactly comfortable with subsidizing developers downtown," Olivier said.
Council Member Sal Quintero was concerned downtown is getting too much help at the expense of other parts of town.
"We see a few results here and there of development that's occurring, but how much assistance do we need to continue giving?" Quintero said.
But a five member majority of the council agreed it was an appropriate use of Measure C funds, and Scharton said it will encourage more downtown development because the $5 thousand per unit subsidy can only be used for new construction.
"We know that great cities have great downtowns and our successful downtown revitalization benefits every part of the city," Scharton said.
The council authorized using about $400 thousand of the $700 thousand, but this may be just the first installment. City officials say up to $15 million may ultimately be available for such subsidies in downtown and other areas of the city.