Tulare prepares for new mixed-use development project

TULARE – Tulare’s economic development continues to grow with new projects all the time, over 200 acres of land is in the works to be used for mixed-use development.

At the Oct. 4th Tulare City Council meeting, Traci Myers, Tulare’s community and economic developer, gave an economic development update. Along with some of the major projects in Tulare like the update to Zumwalt Park, downtown redevelopment and the homeless shelter, Tulare is taking advantage of its first transit oriented development overlay (TOD). In order to qualify as a TOD, the development must be focused on access to public transit.

Arun Toor with Toor Capital is planning the development that will house apartments, townhouses, single family homes, a school and additional amenities on over 200 acres in between Mission Oak High School and College of the Sequoias (COS) Tulare campus.

“The city of Tulare was one of the first cities to say, ‘okay, we’re gonna do this transit oriented development concept,’ which is an overlay over our general plan update,” Myers said. “With that, we’re going to encourage walkability. It’s transit oriented, it’s near Mission Oak, it’s near COS, it’s near a high density residential area, it’s going to have a commercial component and it’s going to have a transit component.”

Toor is the first developer to bring in the option for a TOD to the city of Tulare. The multi use development area will be known as Chandler Grove. To follow the TOD, the development must allow for a mix of land uses focused on access to public transit, according to the staff report. The Chandler Grove project will be on a total of 231 acres of land.

Once complete, there will be 1,197 total residential units accounting for 163 of the 231 acres. There will be a school, a park, a neighborhood commercial center and community center. The parks will act as natural areas and provide stormwater detention with playgrounds, plazas and open fields for sports and activities.

This development will ultimately be connected to COS, and Tulare city manager Marc Mondell said that is a key factor in this type of development. Connecting a college with a residential and commercial area can only provide growth for multiple parties involved. The goal of this type of subdivision is to provide everything a resident would need in an area within walking distance. As it stands now according to the staff report, there will be 552 apartment units, 281 townhome style homes and 364 single family homes.

“It’s focused on public access and walkability, so it’s kind of its own little entity of a development,” Myers said. “That’s why the acreage is so much.”

Toor had to put together an economic impact report (EIR) for the city because of the size of the project and its potential to have significant environmental impacts. Toor’s EIR is now out for public review according to Myers. If all goes well Toor will be one step closer to annexation. According to Myers, ground won’t be broken for another two years on this project due to its magnitude.


Myers said the city is excited for the additional distribution centers that are making their way to the city. CA Ventures has purchased 80 acres of land on East Paige Avenue with the opportunity to expand on a neighboring 80 acres. The plan is to build two industrial buildings, each will be approximately 550,000 square feet each. With this project leading by example, the city is hopeful it will prompt additional businesses to move to Tulare and bring thousands of jobs to the city.

The new interchange, International Agri-Center Way, south of Paige Avenue, is projected to open an entire area of Tulare that has not been easily accessible before. The interchange is expected to be completed in 2025. By opening this interchange it expands the possibilities for developers to take advantage of all the undeveloped land in the areas surrounding the International Agri-Center.

The city continues to grow and that is visible in the year to date permit activity. Myers’ economic update report showed from this year to last year, single family residential building permits went from 93 to 246. It does not look as though those numbers will begin declining any time soon, as more and more subdivisions are being built throughout the city.

At the Sept. 30 city council meeting, council approved the purchase of two acres of property in the city limits of Tulare for the purpose of a temporary homeless encampment. Now that the city owns the property, city staff is preparing to come back to council with an operational plan for review. The city’s hope is to reduce the impacts of homelessness in the downtown residential areas as well as other public and private areas according to Myers’s presentation to council. The temporary encampment is expected to commence in January 2023.

The temporary encampment is a short term solution. The city is also working on the plans for a permanent homeless shelter. It will be a 200 bed facility that is expandable up to 400 beds. The shelter will provide three internal levels of residency–entry, participation and recovery. The city is still working out the details and most importantly is waiting to hear back from the county on a lease agreement for the property. Once the lease is signed, construction of the facility should take about 12-18 months.

The city continues to grow and that is visible in the year to date permit activity. Meyers’ economic update report showed from this year to last year, single family residential building permits went from 93 to 246. It does not look as though those numbers will begin declining any time soon, as more and more subdivisions are being built throughout the city.

At the Sept. 30 city council meeting, council approved the purchase of two acres of property in the city limits of Tulare for the purpose of a temporary homeless encampment. Now that the city owns the property, city staff is preparing to come back to council with an operational plan for review. The city’s hope is to reduce the impacts of homelessness in the downtown residential areas as well as other public and private areas according to Myers’s presentation to council. The temporary encampment is expected to commence in January 2023.

As for the rest of the city, staff has been working hard to get some pre existing projects rolling. The renovation of Zumwalt Park with the addition of the amphitheater, splash pad and playground has 30% design review complete and expects 75% design review to be completed by mid October. Construction should take place from March to October of 2023, with the completion in October.

The downtown master plan is moving along as well. The city met with their consultant, MIG Inc., in August and had a walkthrough of the downtown area. They are working on data collection and will be meeting with the community, stakeholders and elected officials before the end of the year. Once the masterplan is complete it will act as a road map for the next several years for the downtown area.

As for the downtown rehabilitation grant program, the city’s grant committee has made a conditional award to Adrian Herrera for his renovation of the old Toledo Jeweler’s building. He plans to have a tap room on the first floor, filled by Tap 78, and a golf lounge, four apartments on the second floor as well as a rooftop lounge. Herrera was the first to complete the application for the grant. The city still has the opportunity to review and grant additional awards for those who are looking to renovate buildings in the downtown area.

The courthouse remodel for the Tulare Chamber of Commerce’s business accelerator is currently at 60% design review, meaning they have completed 60% of the designs. By December of this year, the final design review should be complete and construction should begin in March 2023. The finished product is expected to be done in October or November of 2023.

As the city continues to grow, so does commercial development. In January 2023, Myers said Tulare will see a Panera Bread on Prosperity Avenue next to Raising Cane’s; a Crumbl cookie shop will be going in the old T-Mobile building near Target; and in the spring of 2023, a Panda Express with a drive thru will be going in on Bardsley Avenue.

Both Cannabis retail shops are projected to open before the end of the year. Valley Pure will be opening in October 2022 and Token Farms will be opening in December 2022.


Federal officials visit Fresno to launch ag initiative

FRESNO, Calif. – A local coalition aimed at creating new agricultural innovations in the Central Valley was recently awarded $88.1 million in federal funds.

The Fresno-Merced Future of Food Initiative, also known as F3, was the only recipient in the country out of more than 500 applicants to get two federal grants aiming to provide sustainable food production in the Central Valley. “It’s a land of contrasts, largest food production in the country, maybe the world but yet extreme poverty and challenges with food deserts,” says Congressman Jim Costa.

The day started with a tour of the Yo’ville Community Garden and Farm, which provides residents in this neighborhood access to land so they can eventually sell their produce and have a source of income. “Unfortunately, there are a lot. Access to land is a huge problem with that, and also the resources you need to get something like this really going,” says Rasheed Hislop, a farm-to-market specialist at Community Alliance of Family Farmers (CAFF).

Officials also toured the old Bank of Italy building in Downtown Fresno, which will be the official site of iCREATE, the headquarters of F3. “In this building, you’re gonna see the services and information being provided,” says Senator Alex Padilla. The 45,000-square-foot building will house a food hall, conference room, and robotics incubators which are expected to be completed by the end of next year. “The location is not a coincidence, right in the heart of Fresno, not too far from where the high-speed rail that will be coming,” says Padilla.


High-Speed Rail completes second structure in Kings County

The High-Speed Rail Authority has completed the second Kings County structure for the state project — the Kent Avenue Grade Separation located at Kent Avenue west of Highway 43 and south of Hanford. The Authority announced the completion of the 215-foot-long overcrossing, which will take vehicles over the future high-speed rail tracks, on Wednesday. Work crews placed 12 pre-cast concrete girders spanning 56 to 91 feet long to form the structure’s deck.

The new structure is the project’s latest progression in the Central Valley, following the summer completion of the Jackson Avenue separation, which was also in Kings County, and the Avenue 15½ grade separation in Madera County.

In addition, the Authority recently awarded contracts to advance design along the Merced to Madera and Fresno to Bakersfield project sections, expanding the 119-mile segment to 171 miles of electrified high-speed rail under development and construction.


UC Davis unveils plans for new agricultural research ‘hub’ funded by $50 million gift

The University of California, Davis, will build a $40 million agricultural innovation center later this decade, a “transformative” expansion to the school’s food science and sustainability programs, after the university on Thursday announced its largest gift ever bestowed by individual donors.

Billionaire philanthropists Lynda and Stewart Resnick are giving $50 million to UC Davis: $40 million toward the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Center for Agricultural Innovation, a 40,000-square-foot, LEED-certified “hub” that will include classrooms and research space; plus $10 million for competitive research grants in the field of agriculture. “This gift will extend our efforts to lead field-level research, analyze big data, rapidly breed plant varieties that can adapt to our changing climate and fine-tune existing crop varieties,” UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May said at an event Thursday morning, unveiling the donation at the Mondavi Center.  “We’ll do this by educating and training these future generations to help us meet the demands for feeding communities in a swiftly changing environment.”

University leaders said the innovation center will focus on five main research areas: solutions for agricultural byproducts; water and energy efficiency; technology development; crop resiliency and sustainability in the face of climate change; and expanding access to nutritious food. “It will serve as an anchor for new ideas, bringing together experts from across disciplines at UC Davis to focus research on California’s iconic specialty crops, such as pistachios, almonds and pomegranates,” the chancellor said.

To that end, the Beverly Hills-based Resnicks are founders of the Wonderful Co. food empire, which produces pomegranates, pistachios and more. Stewart and Lynda Resnick are among the most successful and powerful agribusiness tycoons in California. “We share a passion for progress at the intersection of agriculture, science and sustainability,” Andy Anzaldo, the Wonderful Co. chief operating officer of philanthropy, said Thursday.

Anzaldo spoke on behalf of the Resnicks, who had been slated to appear at Thursday’s announcement but were unable to make it after President Joe Biden’s arrival in Los Angeles disrupted air traffic, delaying flights out of Southern California. “Working together through research and its practical application in our fields, we are racing to make crops more productive, using fewer resources and feeding the world,” Anzaldo said. “That’s one of the reasons why I’m proud this new center will be the hub for the best researchers in the world to help agriculture be part of the solution.”

Design for what May called a “cutting-edge” research center will begin later this year with construction estimated to be complete by 2026. It will be built near the school’s current plant sciences building. The Resnicks’ donation comes amid the university’s “Expect Greater” initiative – a fundraising campaign launched in 2020 aiming to raise at least $2 billion toward “student support, health, climate change and more” by 2024. UC Davis is on track to exceed that goal, already past $1.7 billion after raising $323 million during the 2021-22 fiscal year. Founders of the Wonderful Co. food empire, Forbes magazine estimates the Resnicks’ net worth at $8 billion.

Through their farming operations, the couple is also one of the largest consumers of water in California, if not the largest. Forbes has estimated that the Wonderful farms, which sprawl across thousands of acres in the southern San Joaquin Valley, use as much water in a year as the city of San Francisco consumes in a decade. The UC Davis donation is not the Resnicks’ first major gift to a California higher-ed campus. Caltech recently broke ground on an environmental sustainability research center bankrolled by a $750 million pledge from the couple. Stewart Resnick is also a member of the UC Davis Chancellor’s Board of Advisors, a group of nearly two dozen influential figures including Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Kings owner Vivek Ranadive.


Kern Community College District unveils California Renewable Energy Laboratory

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Local officials and educators celebrated Wednesday the creation of the California Renewable Energy Laboratory. The facility is made possible through $50 million in state funding, which Assemblymember Rudy Salas says he secured in the latest budget. Local educators say the facility will put the Kern Community College District in a position to lead the way in terms of technology development and workforce training. The energy lab’s purpose, in part, is to develop a framework to keep cutting edge, high paying jobs in Kern County. The facility will include centers of excellence for carbon management, microgrid technology and clean transportation.


Power play: State plans to build emergency power plant in Lodi

After last month’s unprecedented heatwave that caused an hours-long power outage, the City of Lodi and the State of California plan to build a facility to ensure a similar event does not happen again. The Lodi City Council unanimously approved partnering with the state to locate, develop, construct and operate a natural gas power plant during its Wednesday night meeting. The facility would create anywhere between 20 and 48 megawatts of emergency power and be delivered directly into Lodi, rather than be transferred through a third-party system, city manager Steve Schwabauer said. Although Lodi owns and operates its own electric utility, the city’s energy is currently delivered through three PG&E sub-transmission lines.

On the morning Sept. 8, a set of production relays on one of those sub-transmission lines failed at the substation located near Lodi and Guild avenues. Lodi Electric Utility staff replaced the relays almost immediately, but PG&E was required to approve the repairs, which took the entire day. With one relay down, the city said it was required to shed power, and it began implementing one-hour rotating power outages at about 4:40 p.m. that day. The outages lasted 61⁄2 hours.

On Wednesday, Schwabauer told the council that staff and PG&E are currently discussing whether the rotating blackouts were an appropriate solution to the equipment failure. “But in the meantime, we are subject to this happening again if another line were to go down,” Schwabauer said. “Electric utility assets are supposed to be constructed to be resilient enough to handle one element going down. In this case, the transmission lines are not able to handle one line going down.” Schwabauer said the new facility, to be funded completely by the state, would only generate power in the event of an emergency, and must be operational by the summer of 2023.

In addition, it would only be needed until about 2028, when PG&E’s Northern San Joaquin 230kV Transmission Project is complete. Formerly known as Northern San Joaquin Power Connect, the 230kV project involves connecting an existing PG&E transmission line into the agency’s Lockeford substation on Kettleman Lane just east of Highway 88. The project also includes building a new overhead transmission line from the Lockeford substation to a new switching station on Thurman Street in Lodi.

A location for the proposed Lodi power plant has not been identified, Schwabauer said, mainly because staff only learned of the project last week at the Northern California Power Agency Annual Conference. “The location question is dependent upon a number of factors,” he said. “It needs to be close to a substation. It needs to be close to a gas line. It needs to be physically possible to get a gas line to it. It needs to be physically possibly to connect electricity to it.”

Taking these factors into consideration, Schwabauer said staff is examining the feasibility of three locations: the existing Industrial Road substation, the substation at Lodi Lake near the water treatment plant and the General Mills facility. “This is a great opportunity for our community not to ever have to experience 6.5 hours of rolling blackouts, (that is) funded by the State of California,” he said. “It will, if it’s constructed, provide some relief to the state of California as well. It has a greater benefit to the state because it creates new (energy) generation.” While the power plant will be funded by the state, Schwabauer said the city will incur about $4 million in costs.

However, he said those costs will be reimbursed by the state to interconnect the power plant into the Lodi Electric Utility system. Other costs the city could potentially incur are land purchases or leasing the site, if the General Mills facility is chosen as the location, he said. “I think this is a wonderful chance for our city to take advantage of this opportunity, that is unprecedented,” Councilman Doug Kuehne said.


State plans to build a power plant near Modesto to avert rolling outages

The state plans to build a power plant near northeast Modesto to help fend off rolling outages starting next summer. The plant, fueled by natural gas, would kick on when demand threatens to exceed supply around California. It would be built on a Claribel Road site owned by the Modesto Irrigation District. The MID board voted 5-0 on Tuesday for a tentative agreement that would bring $13 million for use of the land over five years. The district eventually could buy the plant at a steep discount to feed its own electricity system. It already has a substation and transmission lines at the site. “Frankly, to get a deal like this on generation is just unprecedented,” said James McFall, assistant general manager for electric resources, just before the vote. The timeline is unusual, too. A new power plant normally takes several years to plan and build. The Claribel plant would be installed by Enchanted Rock, a Houston-based energy company that specializes in quick builds.

It would consist of several engines in a stack that could be turned on as needed, much faster than a conventional plant. The site is on the south side of Claribel, half a mile west of Oakdale Road. DWR plans to spend $2.36 billion on such plants around California, said an email from Ryan Endean, assistant deputy director of communications. The amount for the Claribel project is not yet determined. The program aims to keep PG&E and other utilities from having to impose intentional outages on hot days, as happened in recent years. MID is less vulnerable than many, thanks to its flat terrain and lack of dense forest.

The state would own and run the plant for at least five years, with an option for two more. MID could then acquire it for $15.5 million. The plant would have a capacity of 48 megawatts. MID’s total demand typically is about 650 megawatts on summer days with air conditioners and industries humming. MID could use the Claribel plant for its own emergencies when DWR does not need it during the contract term. District leaders said it would come in handy on days like Sept. 6, when demand surged to a record 760 megawatts amid 113-degree heat. That was 58 megawatts beyond the old record. “Just a month ago, we were a little concerned there,” Director Larry Byrd said. “… A little padding would help.”

DWR has long been in the electricity business, generating it at several dams and consuming it to pump water around the state. It was tasked with the outage prevention effort via Assembly Bill 205, enacted in June. The MID board still has to approve a formal contract with DWR and Enchanted Rock. The tentative terms call for completion by July 31, 2023. Along with the $3 million for use of the site, MID would receive up to $250,000 to cover its costs in integrating the plant into the grid. The district is part of an elaborate network for buying and selling electricity across many states. The state requires utilities to get at least 60% of their power from renewable sources by 2030 and all of it by 2045. That gives MID roughly two decades to use the Claribel plant if it opts to buy it from the state. Enchanted Rock has provided gas-fired plants to utilities and other clients around the nation, Chief Commercial Officer Allan Schurr said by phone. They include hospitals, grocers, computer data centers and others concerned about outages. Last month, the city-owned utility in Lodi launched negotiations for a plant of 20 to 48 megawatts. The location and financial terms have not been set. The City Council acted after a major outage amid the early September heat.




Developers broke ground Tuesday on an almond cold storage facility in Madera open to all growers in hopes of alleviating price pressures on the nut. The owners hope the facility at 2842 N. Golden State Blvd. will be the first of many throughout the Central Valley. A project over seven years in the making, Amond World looks to open by the second quarter of 2023, said Robert Sullivan, managing partner for the company. The company name (“almond” without the “L”) links to a colloquialism of the word “almond” popular in the Central Valley — pronounced “am-end.”

The two 250,000-square-foot buildings are focused entirely on almonds. What separates this facility from others is that they will take almonds from any grower, according to Steve Sagouspe, managing partner along with Sullivan. The cold storage will allow almonds to be stored up to two years, meaning during times of plenty, growers can keep the nut in storage rather than bringing it to market. Each building will be able to store 50 million pounds of finished product. “I think farmers and processors are going to really enjoy the opportunity of being able to time their sale rather than having to get rid of it,” Sullivan said. With shipping disrupted as it is now, growers are having to sit on massive amounts of product, creating gluts in the market. Almonds this year have traded below $2 a pound, down from highs of $5 a pound a few years ago. Having access to cold storage means longer shelf life and more stable markets, Sagouspe said.

This also means the almonds don’t need to be fumigated for sanitary purposes. They will also be able to store certified organic almonds. Sullivan and Sagouspe contracted with Madera’s Span Development to build their ground-up development at the Madera Airport Industrial Park. Sullivan hopes to have the building up in the first half of 2023. The Amond World model allows for more growth in the Valley — anywhere almond grows, he added. They are currently scouting additional real estate near Chowchilla and Pixley.

The partnership with Span Development allows them to build several at a time. Part of the seven-year delay came with finding investors, said Sagouspe. They had courted suitors from other parts of the world, but they weren’t a good fit. They eventually found Adam Hayner from Los Angeles-based Origo Investments. The fit was good, he said. Coming from Washington originally and being involved in apple farming, Hayner knew about the importance of cold storage, Sagouspe said. Hayner said supporting the Central Valley is integral to supporting the food chain. The building would also be built with sustainable materials and powered by renewable energy, including solar panels and solar batteries. Sullivan hopes within five years to have 5 million square feet of cold storage online. Sullivan and Sagouspe were both previously real estate brokers with backgrounds in ag, but said Amond World is their new full-time job.


Chowchilla leaders herald new $150M AutoZone distribution center, will create 300 jobs

Valley leaders say an empty dirt lot on Highway 99 in Chowchilla will soon be an important center of economic growth for the city, as well as the Madera-Merced County region. Those officials teamed with AutoZone representatives Friday morning to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the new $150 million distribution center that will be built in Chowchilla. Chowchilla City Administrator Rod Pruett called it the biggest project to come to the city in decades. The 560,000 square foot facility will serve close to 300 AutoZone stores in Northern California, Oregon and Nevada. There are more than 6,000 AutoZone stores located in the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, according to the company’s website.

The project is expected to create close to 300 full-time jobs. The site of the distribution center will be along Chowchilla Boulevard, near Highway 99. “This is a huge day,” Pruett said. “This is the biggest project that’s come to Chowchilla in decades. It brings close to 300 jobs to our community which is a huge deal for us. It’s been over two years in the making.” “These are careers, not just jobs,” Pruett added. “High school kids can stay here in the community. They don’t have to leave. It keeps families intact here. It brings even more to our community as well.” AutoZone officials chose Chowchilla over several sites they were considering. “We were looking for somewhere to expand our presence in Northern California and we looked all over this region,” said Bill Rhodes, who is the AutoZone President and CEO.

Rhodes said he and other AutoZone representatives were impressed with the commitment of the Chowchilla city leaders drive to economic development in their community. “It’s going to take a couple years for us to build the facility,” Rhodes said. “We’ll put $150 million or more into the building. It’ll be 560,000 square feet, housing at least 300 Auto Zoners (employees) and it’ll probably grow pretty extensively beyond that as the years go. We’ll be servicing at least 300 stores and probably get to 500 or 600 stores over time. We’ll have a big fleet of tractor trailers that are coming in and out of here every single day.” Officials say they expect the facility to open near the end of 2023. “It stands for an opportunity (for) growth in a small community,” said Chowchilla Mayor John Chavez. “It stands for sustainable jobs where we reside. It stands for a solid future of development in our industrial area. It stands for a huge milestone for Chowchilla. This is probably the biggest thing to happen in Chowchilla since I’ve been here.”


State senate passes Gaming Compact Agreement for Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tejon

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KERO) — The California State Senate passed the Gaming Compact Agreement for the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tejon on Wednesday night in Sacramento.

The hotel and casino, which will be built just south of Bakersfield, are expected to bring 5,000 direct and indirect jobs, adding over $60 million in payroll every year, as well as making the area a tourism hub for the region. The project is expected to create 400 guest rooms, several restaurants, and entertainment venue, and a convention center. The land on which the resort will sit will become the Tejon Indian Tribe’s first reservation. The Tejon Indian Tribe says 52 acres of the site will be devoted to the resort hotel and casino, while 22 adjacent acres will be designated for an RV park. The remainder of the property will be used for other tribal purposes including administrative offices, a health facility, housing and supporting infrastructure.

The tribe, in partnership with Kern County and Hard Rock International, will also build a joint substation for the Kern County Fire Department and Kern County Sheriff’s Office next to the hotel in order to ensure the safety of residents and visitors in the area. No taxpayer money will be used to operate the hotel or any supporting infrastructure. Governor Gavin Newsom signed off on the Gaming Compact Agreement on June 14, 2022, paving the way for the approval of the state senate.