City of Fresno works to revitalize downtown by tackling vacant buildings, businesses not up to code

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- After a vacant building ordinance was implemented in August, the city has started putting vacant building owners on notice.

The owners have been given information on what will be expected of them as inspections are set to begin in September to ensure boarded-up buildings aren't a risk to the area.

Enforcement officers have also been cracking down on businesses that aren't up to code, like Fallas Discount Store in downtown Fresno.

The front windows are all boarded up, but it's still open for business.

"It's been quite an eyesore for residents and customers who come downtown and enjoy our shops on that Fulton Street," said Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias.

The store has been fined twice for the plywood following complaints from business owners and residents in the area.

Officials said it's a code violation.

The store now owes the city $1,250 in fines, but, so far, the owners have been unresponsive.

"We'll continue to monitor the situation, and they'll continue to rack up fines until they resolve the plywood removal and utilize their windows that are called for in that corridor," said Arias.

Employees at Fallas told Action News they could not comment on the situation.

Further down Fulton Street is Fig & Honey, a catering company that started 3 years ago.

About two months ago, the owners opened up a store front to offer to-go lunch items in downtown.

"We just feel like this is such an upcoming neighborhood that we wanted to be a part of it," said the co-owner of Fig & Honey, Kellie Lopez.

Lopez said she's grateful to see enforcement in the area to ensure they can make downtown the safe, beautiful space they want it to be.

"We try to take care of our space and I think people should definitely feel the same," said Lopez.

The clean up and revitalization will continue by holding owners of vacant buildings accountable.

An ordinance proposed by Councilmember Miguel Arias, and implemented in August, targets vacant buildings that pose health or safety risks.

Owners will be required to ensure their buildings have a fire protection system and security system to prevent criminal activity.

Any commercial owners who fail to correct violations face up to $10,000 in fines.

"I would hope that some of these property owners who have been sitting on their properties for years with no activity would take advantage of the economic opportunity and revitalize their buildings or sell them to somebody who has the means and the willingness to convert them into something useful for the neighborhood," said Arias.

The first inspection under the new ordinance was done at the old Gottschalks building, which is owned by the city.

Health and safety updates are being made and discussions are underway about what to do with it, including possibly selling it to convert it to better use.
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