Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Westlake: Another Granville Disaster

Update: Kiel Shmidt has put together an excellent map of the project, how it compared to another Granville development (Running Horse) and the city boundaries.

That map can be seen here.

The Fresno Bee has published their article on the subject, including some good pictures of the site. That article can be read here.

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In 2005, Granville proposed a giant exurban residential development west of Fresno.

Now they're making moves to actually build it.


They're calling it Westlake, and they want to use 430 acres to build 2,600 new homes....and a giant lake. In typical Granville fashion, they want to do this in the middle of nowhere, far from jobs, businesses, and entertainment. Well, not nowhere - the area has plenty of productive farms.

The project will be in the center, west of Grantland, where the canal meanders through. 

 photo westlake1_zpsb8674e1e.jpg
Sound familiar? Yes, these are the same people who want to build a medical college 20 miles out of town, because according to them, there's no suitable land anywhere closer. This project is marginally closer - 10 miles away from downtown, and 3 miles from the 99, but it's clearly still leapfrog development at its worst. Why not build the college here? Because the college is just a way to get more housing approved further away.

Incidentally, the same developer owns an enormous parcel just 3 miles from downtown....which they want to use for commercial almond farming. They're also the same developer who strongly supports the eradication of a pedestrian mall downtown, claiming that making it a road will "revitalize" the area. Of course these projects do everything possible to destroy downtown, by sending people as far away as possible, so you shouldn't be surprised when I tell you I don't exactly trust them on that note.Would you?

 photo westlake2_zps8005f2ed.jpg

So what can make building 2,600 homes in the middle of nowhere even worse?

Building a giant artificial lake, in an area experiencing a drought, surrounded by farmers desperate for water. As the Bee reported just this week:

Pine Flat Reservoir is a ghost of a lake in the Fresno County foothills — a puddle in a 326 billion-gallon gorge.

Holding only 16% of its capacity, Pine Flat is the best example of why there is high anxiety over the approaching wet season.

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/10/27/3574965/reservoirs-need-a-wet-winter.html#storylink=cpy

Dwindling reservoirs should be a wake-up call to Californians, said Mark Cowin, director of the state Department of Water Resources. The state has not declared a drought, but now is the time to prepare additional water-conservation ideas for next year.

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/10/27/3574965/reservoirs-need-a-wet-winter.html#storylink=cpy

 "January through May 2013 were California's driest in about 90 years of recordkeeping," Lucero said.
Fresno Bee

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/10/27/3574965/reservoirs-need-a-wet-winter.html#storylink=cpy

The Granville solution? Building what essentially amounts to a giant evaporation pool, an artificial lake that will constantly need fresh water pumped in.

 photo westlake3_zpsbb52d05d.jpg

Can it get any worse? Naturally.

Notice in the map above, that the lake is one continuous body, with no crossing points. In other words, the street grid, which is currently made up of major roads every .5 miles, will have no east-west route for a mile and a half. Dakota and Ashlan will lead to a dead end. Gettysburg will be forced to transform from a quiet street to a major arterial.

In other words: A lot more driving, as people are forced to detour.

Naturally, they claim this project will be pedestrian friendly, environmentally friendly, support mixed use and "reduce dependency upon the automobile."

Come again?

Ignoring, for a second, the location of the project.... the site plan makes it impossible for most residents to NOT drive anywhere and everywhere.

Say a resident wants to go to the "community commercial" which will "meet the local needs."

Can they get their, walking? Nope. There's a lake in the way. Residents are going to get in the car, and drive a couple of miles just to get somewhere that should be a five minute walk.

 photo westlake5_zpsa91fd423.jpg

How about the neighborhood school? Same problem. So close, but so, so far.


 photo westlake6_zpsa374e702.jpg

Now look 30 years in the future, when Granville, and their developer friends, have populated every nearby parcel with homes. Anyone trying to go east, you know, towards the rest of the city, has a lake in their way. 2 mile instant detour.

What was that about reducing dependency on the automobile?

Naturally, such a situation calls for mitigation. More money for transit? A new bike trail? No, of course not.

The solution, like all solutions in Fresno, mean widening every area road, and adding traffic signals at every intersection. Like magic, all the extra traffic is "mitigated." Bikes? Pedestrians? Transit users? Internal circulation? I guess those concerns get paved away under new lanes.

I could have sworn the state passed a greenhouse gas reduction law, but apparently it doesn't apply to Granville, or Fresno.

Anything else wrong with this project? Come on too easy...

Every development in Fresno is required to add community green space - parks. Granville is going to build a whopping 55 acres!

And by park, they mean lake. You know, the private lake surrounded by the new homes. In other words...no community green space. And apparently that's ok.

In fact apparently everything about this is ok. Mind you, I'm not the first to raise these concerns. Back in 2008, the "Council District 1 Implementation Committee" drafting a letter noting their concerns with the project. They also noted that there are serious water concerns, including that of a depleting water table. They mention that a project of this size that's auto dependent will clearly have a significant carbon footprint. They also noted that the employees of the commercial retail will likely not be able to afford a lakeside home, meaning residents will commute (drive) to town, and retail employees will commute (drive) into the development.

That last concern is the same as with the Millerton College Plan. They intend to build thousands of homes, and claim there will be little traffic, ignoring that the people who study and work at the college will likely not live in that community, due to the price.

The committee listed many other concerns, including the enormous cost of annexing a giant development so far divided from the rest of the city.

You can see that letter at the very end of the enormous project report. (Warning, massive PDF).


Shovels aren't scheduled to hit the ground this year, as Granville is amending the plan somewhat (swapping homes around), meaning the city has to approve this again. Of course, they will. When a developer says they want something, Fresno gives it to them, consequences be damned.

9 comments:

  1. Is there any way to kill this? This seems like quite possibly the worst project suggested in the entire Lower 48, with the exception of hydrofracking.

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    1. Another major recession might add another 5 year delay!

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  2. This isn't the middle of nowhere, it's 2 minutes from town. You're talking like it's Mendota or Firebaugh or something.

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    1. Also, the statement: "In other words, the street grid, which is currently made up of major roads every .5 miles, will have no east-west route for a mile and a half. Dakota and Ashlan will lead to a dead end." is laughable. If you would bother to leave Fresno every now and then and come out to the westside you would already know that Ashlan currently stops at Grantland and Dakota stops at Hayes. The only streets that run uninterrupted north of McKinley to the west are Shields and Shaw Ave.

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    2. Correct, the roads currently end. Because there's nowhere else to go. Any and all plans indicate that every road is supposed to continue when the area is developed.

      Ending the grid when you're adding 8,000 people is a major problem.

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  3. Much of this blog is based on false or incorrect information:

    In the middle of nowhere? No homes or jobs? Except for Central Unified being right across the street. High School, Middle School, etc, all surrounding the east side of the project. A community immediately to the North and to the West of the project. Perhaps Mr. Sinclair doesn't believe the people who live and work in that area matter - what a shame.

    The lake will not use fresh water and with the addition of a recharge basin which Granville will install, the project will actually return water to the aquifer. Something that is not remotely near the community now. Westlake will use water already entitled to the project - and nothing more.

    People will have to drive to work if they live in or work in the community? Wow. That's so unheard of. I guess no one in Fresno works in Clovis - or vice versa.

    The plan for the project includes a 2.5 mile 16 foot wide multipurpose trail for pedestrians and bicyclists. Why wasn't this information included in the blog? Perhaps because it's counter to the argument which is being made by the writer. In addition, the project will include a bridge crossing the lake, enabling residents, visitors, pedestrians, bicyclists or anyone else to easily cross the lake if they wish.

    Destroy downtown? Granville Homes has revitalized downtown in more ways than any other developer, individual, or political administration. In addition - how silly of a sentence to suggest Granville is destroying downtown - when they rent several hundred units in downtown. Invest all that money just to drive people away? Really? How much has James Sinclair done for downtown Fresno - besides complain about the good work that others have done.

    Why should others get to decide where the Assemi family builds their University campus? Last time I checked, this is America. Just because you want something somewhere, doesn't mean you get to make that decision. In addition, I think Granville Homes and the Assemi family have been successful because of their knowledge in the Real Estate industry. Perhaps Mr. Sinclair should start a company, operate it successfully for 30 years and then acquire the land a build a University where he wants.

    Like the previous post said - perhaps Mr. Sinclair should take the bus or a bike ride (he must take the bus or bike since he's such a hawk when it comes to greenhouse gases) to the community and see what it's like for himself.. Instead of sitting on his computer writing blogs with absolutely no knowledge about what's actually going on.

    I'd love to dispute this post more, but, some of us have real jobs and don't get to spend all day writing negative and inaccurate posts about the things that other people are doing.

    Good day.

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    1. Anonymous, I am quite familiar with the area. I can also look at maps. It's in the middle of nowhere, that is clearly not disputable.

      As for the school campus, you're correct, it's there. Isn't it also brand new, built in preparation for this development? Using that as justification makes no sense. When the next development is proposed 2 miles west, guess what, they'll use westlake as justification.

      Of course they're using fresh water, it's not coming from the ocean. They're using water which is a limited resource in the valley. Yes, they're paying for it. That doesn't mean it's a proper use. Also, having a ponding basin next to a lake is absurd, what a waste of space. You cannot deny that the lake will have to continuously be refilled as the water evaporates. You might also note that we're experiencing a drought.

      The existence of a trail means nothing if it doesn't go anywhere. Great, new residents will be able to walk their dog, but they can't use it as transportation because it's an idiotic loop. The plans indicate no such bridge. Open the PDF and see for yourself.

      I'm sure Bernie Madoff gave $100 to the salvation army that one time. Crimes excused!

      Why should others get to decide? Because this is a democracy, and all of their projects require enormous public subsidies. I'm tired of my taxes going to greedy developers.

      Care to point out where it is I drive to work? Your baseless attack here is quite frankly absurd.

      Congratulations, I also have a job. That's why I can barely manage two posts a week.

      I suggest you stick to facts rather than attacks on the author, or your future posts will simply be deleted. Also, you'd do well using a real account, rather than hiding behind anonymity.

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    2. I wonder which Assemi family member is posing as "Anonymous."

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  4. Interestingly, Shaw Ave. is the next major street directly to the north.

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