Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Government Sprawl: Sending the veterans out to pasture

That's right, more residential development out in the middle of nowhere, and this time, it's government funded.

A few weeks ago, I posted about a housing developer planning a retirement community in the middle of nowhere.

Yesterday's Fresno Bee highlighted a new residential community, and this one is for veterans.

The article, "Budget cuts delay opening of Fresno veterans home" goes into details of the government funds that are helping build this thing. Federal, state, and I believe even local monies are being put into this housing complex, which is being created to help veterans.

"Once it opens, the Fresno home will provide a variety of services to 300 veterans, including rehabilitation and minimal personal care.

The home will create about 400 permanent jobs."

300 residents, 400 jobs? That's a pretty big complex. That's a lot of people coming and going. A real hub of activity even. One might even call it a large traffic generator. More on road access later.

Now, like all residents, veterans want access to the community. Grocery stores, restaurants, shops, cafes etc. But on top of that, they also need access to medical services.

After all, like Assembly member Perea put it,

""I'm optimistic that we can find a solution that will ensure the men and women who selflessly served our county have access to the care they deserve," Perea said."


Exactly. And what better place to get care than in a developed area, by existing stores, the existing Veteran's Hospital, dentists, care providers etc etc

But one thing the Bee article didn't touch on at all is the realities of the location of this new home.

A location that presumably was approved by the feds, state officials and local officials, because they all chipped in money.

A location that should provide the vets the care they need, with easy access from visitors and the ability to be involved in the community.

And this is what they got.

As I said, big project

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But let's zoom out a bit.

See a store? See a hospital? See any form of development...? See a sidewalk or bike lane or park or....anything?

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Maybe I strategically cropped the image to make it only appear like this new home is out in the middle of nowhere. Lets pull back a bit more.

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Ok, so there are SOME bits of urbanity over there on the right.

How does that relate to the actual city?

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Yeah. Not very well. The freeway triangle is what is considered downtown. The city grew to the north and east of it.

This new home is in the middle of nowhere. The real middle of nowhere.

Out of curiosity, where is the VA Hospital?

7 miles away

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(Fun fact, 180 was only just extended that way, I guess now someone is going to use it)

As I mentioned before, this is a large building, so it will generate a fair amount of movement. But since there's absolutely no pedestrian, cycling or transit access, every single resident, visitor and staff member will have to arrive by car.

I'm sure older vets will love dealing with this road after dark.

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One last point, what kind of social message is this sending to the vets? By building them a home far away from absolutely everything, this doesn't exactly scream "we love you, thanks for the service!" but appears to be more like "go where we don't have to deal with you" or perhaps "get out and stay out".

There's a reason prisons are generally built in the far-off outskirts. Why are we giving these veterans the same treatment?

Once could argue "such a big complex requires a large amount of land, I'm sure they would have built it closer if land was available".

Here's the VA Hospital in 2009.

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Yeah.

One positive note: That parcel of land is being turned into affordable apartments. But again, wouldn't it have made more sense as vet housing...? It's not like there was a shortage of urban land elsewhere for the apartments.

3 comments:

  1. Wow. Totally insane. Who owns that parcel of land in the middle of nowhere? I bet you'll find your answers there.

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  2. The Veterans Home site is where the failed Running Horse golf/housing/shopping project was planned. The original developer donated the 25 acres for veterans who were excited to be located on and have access to the planned golf course and other amenities.

    Running Horse would have been built toward the east of the Veterans Home nearly to the existing West Fresno area (one of the region's poorest neighborhoods and in need of new development nearby to spur its economy and jobs).

    One reason for the golf/housing project was some felt encouraging new upscale development to the west of and closer to downtown than RiverPark/Woodward Park might slow northward sprawl and redirect growth. The same thought process also drives the new growth in the southeast, shifting to surround downtown and slow the sprawl north away from older areas.

    More balanced urban development might help revitalize downtown and surrounding areas by making downtown the geographic center of the urban area. It could then be a centralized transportation/employment/etc hub.

    The competition is with developers who for 2 decades have wanted to build housing for 100,000 people north of the river in the Rio Mesa developments of Madera County, leaving downtown Fresno even more on the periphery of the developed urban area.

    The parcel near the VA hospital has been owned/operated by the Fresno Housing Authority as housing projects for the poor for over six decades. The site is vacant in that picture because the original 60 year old housing project was torn down to replace it with better housing for the poor. That picture is after demolition but before construction.

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  3. Thank you for the detailed comment Anon.

    I am aware of the running horse proposal, but didnt realize it was to be located right next door.

    I disagree with the logic that sprawl can help combat sprawl...that makes no sense. If you develop 50 acres of farm land in A, which causes a delay of development of 50 acres of farmland at B....you're still turning 50 acres of agriculture into suburban housing. Sprawl is sprawl, and Fresno has more than enough vacant land inside the already urbanized area to fit all the needed development.

    Likewise, the SEGA project may try and claim growth from the north, but again, it's still destroying farmland to build homes away from downtown. Is it closer to downtown? Yes. But that's just semantics. Being close to downtown obviously hasn't affected where people purchase their homes.

    I don't think being the geographic center would help revitalize Fresno. Look at LA. Downtown has always been the geographic center, but that didnt stop it declining severely in the 70's and 80's. And today downtown LA is seeing rapid growth, which has nothing to do with suburban development.

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