Dinuba weighs green space against housing

Dinuba City Council approves land use entitlements for 75-home neighborhood west of Centennial Park despite concerns on lack of recreational area

Dinuba Mayor Maribel Reynosa listens as Public Works Manager George Avial presents information regarding proposed utility rate increases.
Serena Bettis
Published May 17, 2024  • 
9:00 am

DINUBA – Competing interests briefly clashed in the Dinuba City Council chambers as the council weighed its desire to provide residents with more green space against its need for more housing. This discussion arose over a new neighborhood development plan that lacked any kind of park. 

At its May 14 meeting, the council was hesitant to approve land use entitlements for a new development along Sierra Way, just west of Centennial Park, that would build 75 single-family homes. Developers said they felt that with a city park across the street from the neighborhood, it would be redundant to build a pocket park, but council members did not feel that would be adequate. 

“The majority of the kids’ parents will … want to use the park on the weekends, and that’s when the park is being used by soccer players,” Mayor Maribel Reynosa said. “I agree … that’s what our parks are there for, but I don’t think that the developers should be given a pass. Even if it’s a little bit of green space, it doesn’t have to be anything substantial, but just something big enough where there’s a little playground for kids.” 

Concerns discussed by council members echoed elements of other housing developments throughout the city that the council has been wary of, including home lot sizes, neighborhood parking availability, traffic impacts and nearby park space. 

The development, brought forward by developer LandDesign Consulting, Inc. and builder Bonadelle Neighborhoods, is planned for medium-density residential use on just under 19 acres north of Sierra Way and positioned in between Road 70 and Road 72. The new neighborhood will have a compact grid layout with two access points, one on the west and one of the east, and home lot sizes will range from approximately 6,100 square feet to more than 10,000 square feet. 

Trading homes for a pocket park

Although the city council has requested that most new developments include parks, even if they are “pocket parks” that take up about as much space as two homes, City Planning Consultant Karl Schoettler said that with Centennial Park close by, city staff felt it would be a better use of resources for the developer to pay park impact fees that the city could put to use elsewhere, such as for future park development or park maintenance. 

However, Councilmember Linda Launer brought up the fact that Centennial Park is overtaken by soccer players on the weekends and in the evenings, so much so that families living in the new neighborhood may not be able to use the park for gatherings or leisure activities. Additionally, she said that the streets around the park are already lined with cars when people are playing soccer, and adding a neighborhood with potentially two cars per household would make that worse. 

“Having the Centennial Park on the weekend – with the number of soccer players – it’s not going to be an inviting thing for individuals that live within this to go use it, it’s just not,” Launer said. “You have to spend some time to see what I’m talking about there. Yes, I understand that it would be a small green area, small pocket park, but I think it is something that our neighborhoods have gotten used to.”

The council proposed that the developer convert two lots into a pocket park and build 73 homes instead, but the builder, John Bonadelle, said that doing so would significantly impact the feasibility of the entire project. Instead, Bonadelle said they could pay the park impact fees, which would be approximately $236,000, and contribute those to improvements in Centennial Park, such as benches, space for pickleball courts, barbecues or more. 

While it would cost about the same for the builder to put in a pocket park as it would for them to pay the city’s park impact fees, they still have additional off-site improvements that they are required to make to the area around the neighborhood, including undergrounding the nearby irrigation canal and widening the three surrounding streets, and the loss of the revenue they could make from two homes would hurt the overall project. 

City Manager Luis Patlan said something that might help bridge the gap between the council’s concerns and the developer’s needs is that the city is working on plans for a storm drain line project that would remove the need to use Centennial Park as a stormwater basin. The park’s soccer fields are not currently level with the road and instead are in a basin with a 15-foot slope, which limits the usability of the land. 

With the city’s storm drain line project — which is funded through a state grant program — the city would generate enough dirt that it could use to level off Centennial Park and create more area for passive use, Patlan said. Those plans and that possibility is still tentative, however, so council members proposed that they conditionally approve the development with either 73 lots and a pocket park or 75 lots and no pocket park, depending on the capacity available at Centennial Park. 

Bonadelle said that kind of uncertainty would not be very feasible and he would prefer to work out another solution because he is eager to build in Dinuba and wants to get started as soon as possible, but also can’t guarantee that the project would work with only 73 homes. 

“I answer to a bank, and I can’t go to the bank and say, it’s maybe 75 lots, it’s maybe 73 lots,” Bonadelle said. “I can work on the park programming with that $236,000 number across the street, I’d be happy to try to find something that you as a city would be satisfied with. I want the families in this community to have a great park.”

The city council eventually approved the annexation, pre-zoning, environmental finding and tentative subdivision map for the project with a unanimous vote on the condition that the developers would design improvements to the portion of Centennial Park equivalent to two lots and subject to the review and approval of the city council. Additionally, if the council does not agree with the design improvements, the developer will have to put in a pocket park equivalent to two lots.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter