Empty lot subject of legal fight in Downtown Fresno

FRESNO, Calif.

An empty lot at L and San Joaquin streets is at the center of a heated debate over combining the old with the new, and the process of making that a reality.

Granville Homes had dreams of turning the downtown corner into a 28-unit townhome.

Granville Homes President Darius Assemi said, "Our vision for downtown pays respects to its past and history. We know that change will occur. We just want to plan that change properly."

However the project is at a standstill, because of a lawsuit filed by Citizens for the Restoration of L Street.

Days after the suit was filed, the Crichton and Sayre homes which stood on the property for many years, were bulldozed to the ground.

According to the city of Fresno, a study found the homes were no longer of historical or culture significance allowing the developer to make way for the new construction.

Charles Barrett is a member of the restoration group. He says the main issue is how the city has assessed environmental impacts.

Barrett said, "There's a greater temptation here than there is other places for city government to team up with their favorite developers for the moment in a way that avoids environmental review."

In March, a judge denied a motion filed by the city and Granville Homes to dismiss the case. However, Granville Homes President Darius Assemi says they have gone through the proper procedures.

Assemi said, "We are confident that we went through all of the hoops. And did a thorough environmental analysis before this project was started."

And while both sides agree revitalization and restoration is needed in Downtown Fresno, they don't see eye to eye on the method.

A judge will ultimately decide the future of this project. It's unknown exactly how long that will take, but both sides will meet in court at the end of August.

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