New proposal would help Fresno's vacant commercial buildings

Jason Oliveira Image
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
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Councilmember Miguel Arias believes dozens of the empty buildings citywide can be turned into living spaces or operating businesses.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Rundown vacant commercial buildings continue to be a problem for many areas of Fresno.

On Tuesday, councilmember Miguel Arias introduced an ordinance that aims to fight blight in his district and across the city.

The proposal hopes to establish safety and maintenance standards - and includes big fines for those who break the rules.

"If we don't address these constant fire hazards, they're not going to be able to respond to medical calls as we envision them to respond," said Arias.

Officials say a high concentration of these blighted rundown properties are located in the Tower District and Downtown areas.

But Arias believes dozens of the empty buildings citywide can be turned into living spaces or operating businesses with a little elbow grease.

Arias aims to hold vacant commercial owners to the same standards as private homeowners and landlords by encouraging them to invest in their neighborhoods.

"You can't simply sit on a vacant building anymore without taking steps to begin to develop these properties," said Arias.

A proposed ordinance would allow the city to inspect and fine commercial owners up to $10,000 if their building is not up to code.

This historic property on Fulton Street has been empty for decades, and despite numerous complaints from neighbors remains not just an eyesore but a constant target for break-ins and fires.

"As a neighbor, it is really frustrating and it's really heartbreaking to see something like this, especially a historic property like this, have so much potential and then nothing," said Esther Carver.

"We've been abating and responding to complaints. The property owner has responded to some of those complaints to clean them up but it's become a constant nuisance on a weekly basis for the neighbors," said Arias.

Arias is hopeful the city council will approve adding commercial buildings along with mobile home parks to the responsibilities of code enforcement, while adding additional resources to the department.