Courtesy of Campus Pointe plan
The Campus Pointe project was envisioned as a profitable showpiece for California State University, Fresno, turning agricultural fields east of campus into a new cash crop. The $167 million, 45-acre development was planned as a collection of stores, senior/multifamily housing and office space anchored by a Hyatt Hotel.
While the historic project, which was announced in 2005, could still be months away from an official groundbreaking, according to University President John D. Welty, construction on the housing project is just days away.
â€œProbably in the next few days youâ€™ll start to see construction equipment move on the site and work begin on the housing project,â€ Welty said. â€œAnd of course that will be in full swing as we move into the fall semester.â€
The project has been through many delays from lawsuits, a review of the plans and leases by the California State University Chancellorâ€™s Office and a notice of violation from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
The project has been delayed following an air district rule, which requires an assessment of how the project would affect air quality, according to Dan Barber, supervising air quality specialist for the district. The assessment would lead to the university having to pay mitigation fees. Those fees would be used to pay for projects that would offset the pollution the project would cause.
Kevin Hall, the air quality chair for the Sierra Club Tehipite Chapter, had lobbied for the mitigation fee, which is part of the indirect source review rule. He said the university should be leading the way in fighting air pollution and not dragging its feet.
â€œFresno State is in the heart of one of the dirtiest air pockets in the Valley, state and nation,â€ said Hall. â€œThe university is being grossly negligent in its refusal to comply with the rule.â€
Campus Pointeâ€™s impact on the Valleyâ€™s air would not be small. The project will generate 12,000 new trips per day, according to the environmental impact report that was issued in 2006.
Wayne Clarke, compliance manager with the district, said that a preliminary estimate of the mitigation fees puts the amount between $1 million to $1.5 million, based on the environmental impact report and the total cumulative impact of the project.
The university was informed that the rule applied to Campus Pointe when it went through the state’s Environmental Quality Review process, Barber said.
â€œWe sent several letters to that effect to the university, trying to advise them of the need to comply with [the rule],â€ Barber said.
Clarke said the university should have applied after the rule went into effect in March 2006. â€œWeâ€™re almost getting to where itâ€™s two years late,â€ he said.
The district issued a notice of violation in December, informing the university that it could face fines of up to $75,000 a day. The notice gave the university until Jan. 31 to respond.
â€œThey [Fresno State] came in the next working day we had after [the deadline],â€ Clarke said. â€œThey came in on Monday, Feb. 4, and spoke with our group and found out what they needed to do.â€
Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) President Juan Pablo Moncayo said that he didnâ€™t know very much about the issue, but that it may have a misunderstanding.
â€œI’m guessing that there’s just been a difference of opinion in how Campus Pointe [should be] handled,â€ he said. â€œIn previous conflicts, we’ve seen that it’s just been a difference of opinion in how to go about getting approval. From what I’ve observed Fresno State has been pretty observant [in following environmental rules].â€
Some of the prior conflicts that the university has faced over Campus Pointe are a lawsuit by the city of Fresno over the project’s impact, especially on traffic, and a request for impact fees from the California Department of Transportation for the project’s effect on the ramps for highways 168 and 41. The university settled the lawsuit with Fresno and agreed to pay Caltran’s fees.
Despite these issues, the projectâ€™s previous documents were complete, according to Deborah Adishian-Astone, executive director of the California State University, Fresno Association, which will supervise Campus Pointe once itâ€™s finished.
â€œThe environmental impact report for Campus Pointe adequately addressed all required traffic and air quality mitigation required and the EIR included an air quality assessment report as required by [the] California Environmental Quality Act,â€ she said in an e-mail.
CEQA is the state’s environmental law. Its air quality rules require some mitigation as well but, unlike the air districtâ€™s rule, donâ€™t require mitigation fees. Even when developers make mitigation efforts on their projects, the project still causes more pollution, Hall said. He said that other polluters, such as industry, are already working to cut emissions.
â€œThey [developers] need to pay their fair share,â€ Hall said.
The air districtâ€™s rule is an important tool because it addresses the effect of growth, Hall said.
â€œWeâ€™re getting lots of [emission] reductions from local sources but that’s being undermined by sprawl,â€ he said. â€œWe have more vehicles traveling more miles more often and at higher speeds.â€
The rule is aimed at more than one kind of emission, according to Barber.
He said that there are two types of emissions that occur with development: the construction exhaust and emissions that are associated with the operation of the project-its energy consumption, landscape maintenance and vehicle miles traveled.
â€œThe rule is really intended to encourage developers to think about the way they design and develop a project,â€ Barber said.