In California’s Central Valley, horizontal sprawl hits a wall – or has it?

By the time Southern Pacific Railroad railhead reached Fresno in 1874 the area’s agrarian roots already ran deep – they were firmly planted, in other words.

Like many Valley communities, both Fresno and its closest neighbor to the north, Madera, grew up around the railroad.

Between these two neighbors flows the San Joaquin River. For this reason or that, the two Central San Joaquin Valley-based cities opted to not build along the river’s edges. But all of this could be changing and soon if certain interests get their way.

Several communities on both the river’s north and south banks – some approved, some proposed, with names like Friant Ranch, Tesoro Viejo and Rio Mesa – have become bones of contention. The proposed Friant Ranch development on the Fresno County side of the San Joaquin and apparently on hold at present, is itself controversial, especially given two state-mandated acts – 2008 Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act (California Senate Bill 375) and 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act (California Assembly Bill 32), and with regard to metropolitan regions complying. Should this development move forward, expect, among other side effects, substantial traffic increases; increases that will doubtless negatively affect the mid-Valley’s already poor air quality condition. There would be water impacts as well, presumably.

So, the city of Fresno, to try to stop Friant Ranch from going forward, filed a lawsuit.

This development was revealed in an article published in the Jan. 24, 2013 edition of The Fresno Bee. In the article: “Fresno hardens stance against Friant Ranch,” author Kurtis Alexander made abundantly clear that the county had been sued by the city two years earlier on account of the former approving the project.

It should be noted the legal challenge through the court system to try to block the 2,500-home project was recently rejected. The city is apparently appealing that decision. Friant Ranch is among a handful of area in-the-works projects.

In fact, according to Alexander in the same article in question, the city filed suit against Madera County over Tesoro Viejo. Regarding that development, it is my understanding the suit was lodged on account of the project being advanced despite its environmental review being insufficient.

I see these battles as being tantamount to a David-versus-Goliath-type duel.

As for how area growth proceeds from here on out, stay tuned.

California's flat, expansive and agriculturally-robust but often air-pollution-shrouded San Joaquin Valley
California’s flat, expansive and agriculturally-robust but often air-pollution-shrouded San Joaquin Valley

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