Fresno's Chinatown business owners believe high-speed rail will hurt community

In just one week, the High-Speed Rail Authority will start a storm water drain project along F and Kern streets in Downtown Fresno. But some business owners in that area believe the construction will hurt their community.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Road closures in different parts of Downtown Fresno are slowly expanding as high-speed rail construction starts to pick up speed. Next Monday, construction starts in front of several Chinatown businesses. It's a historic area that some people believe is a quickly fading memory of the past.

"The local businesses here that depend on the road being open for their business to thrive, to succeed, to have people come get their haircut, to get the Japanese manju, to eat lunch at Chef Paul's," said Kathy Omachi of Chinatown Revitalization Inc.

Omachi says the organization is fighting the High-Speed Rail Authority to stop them from destroying their properties. At this point, the plans don't call for the destruction of any of the historic buildings. But Omachi fears that will change as the project progresses.

Elizabeth Jonasson of the High-Speed Rail Authority says they've been trying to work with community partners as they move forward with the project.

"We're listening to what their concerns are and taking them into account, and tweaking our plans to make sure that we're taking all that input into account," said Jonasson.

Omachi and others in the Chinatown community adamantly argue that the High-Speed Rail Authority has steamrolled the naysayers during the planning process. Omachi likens this project to the Chukchansi Park construction in 2002.

"We as a community probably received zero benefit from the stadium, and we're projecting that that's what's going to happen with the high-speed rail," said Omachi.

The Chinatown group made a list of demands for High-Speed Rail Authority leaders that they hope will be taken into consideration at the next High-Speed Rail Authority workshop.

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