REEDLEY – Development of an 80-unit apartment complex in north Reedley moved forward Thursday after the Reedley Planning Commission passed a resolution to approve an environmental assessment and conditional use permit.
At its Aug. 3 meeting, the Reedley Planning Commission voted 3-0 to pass the resolution in its only business of the night, with Chair Alberto Custodio and Commissioner Jayne Clark absent. The complex, proposed by local builder Yanez Construction, would feature two- and three-bedroom market-rate apartments off Frankwood Avenue, between East Aspen Drive and East Locke Avenue.
“This property is actually right on the city limit line, so the Jehovah’s Witness’s place of worship is directly to the north of this project — and that property is outside of the city limits — so this parcel is the last property in the city limits along Frankwood in this area,” city planner Ellen Moore said.
The planning commission voiced concerns over some details of the complex, but approved the items nonetheless.
Prior to the presentation of the proposed project, Community Development Director Rodney Horton explained that California housing laws have largely tied the city’s hands in deciding to accept or reject the development. This is because of alternative routes the builders could take if the city rejected the conditional use permit.
“A lot of the local control is being taken away from cities on a constant basis and that is significant, that is at play,” Horton said. “I don’t want to give the state too much of a breathing room … but I do want to give the community and commission a full scope of what we constantly deal with as your planners on a regular basis as it pertains to housing and land use.”
The land’s zoning designation allows for by-right development, meaning that the builders could reconfigure their plans to align with specifications in the zoning ordinance and create the development without a conditional use permit that needs approval from a governing board.
“Or, the applicant can say … I will sell the land to an affordable housing developer … who can construct up to 220 dwelling units on that site,” Horton said. “That is something I just want to put out there for commission, as well as the public, to consider as we look at this particular project.”
Horton also emphasized that these are market-rate apartments, meaning that they are not units geared toward lower income families. There have been conversations in the community about affordable housing projects being planned in Reedley, but he clarified that these apartments are not that.
“Market rate housing in Reedley is needed, quite frankly,” Horton said. “We have three generations that are looking for housing all at the same time, and that’s both on a residential side as far as single family homes, and it’s also in home ownership and it’s also on the rental side as far as apartments, townhomes and what-have-you.”
Moore said the complex will be a planned unit development on approximately 5 acres of land that have been zoned as RM-2 high density residential since 2014 when the city approved the 2020 general plan. That designation allows for 15-29 dwelling units per acre, meaning “there’s a potential for between 75 and 144 units on the property,” she said.
“This project is only 80 units, so this is on the lower side of the potential density,” Moore said.
The complex will be made up of 10 two-story buildings and have 142 parking spaces, 80 of which will be covered garage spaces. Due to a previously approved vesting tentative subdivision map of the property, the developer has to build an extension of Cambria Avenue through the property, running east off Frankwood Avenue. Four of the buildings will be north of Cambria and six will be to the south.
It is planned so that the garages form a barrier on the north and south borders of the property, and that the parking lots are only accessible via driveways coming off Cambria Avenue. The west perimeter will have a CMU (concrete masonry unit) wall along it, and there will also be a ponding basin in the northeast corner of the property.
Based on those plans for the property, Yanez Construction had to apply for a conditional use permit to be granted exceptions for some code requirements. For example, the required rear yard setback for lots containing multiple units is 10 feet, but the builders requested to have no setback because of the planned garages.
Planning Commissioner Rosemary Luzania expressed concern over the number of parking spaces, as there would only be fewer than two spaces available per unit.
Additionally, the commissioners said they did not like how there was no plan for an open green space to allow for a kid’s play area. Commissioner Patrick Turner said that it is important for children to have space to go outside and with nowhere to go in a large, multi-family complex, that would leave a lot of children who could potentially get into trouble.
“You’re going to have 160 kids, potentially,” Turner said. “Everybody wants their kids to have someplace safe to play. Walking all the way to Citizen’s Park is nearly a mile, and then you don’t want your small children walking there.”
Yanez Construction owner Efrain Yanez said there is a small area on the corner of the property that could work as an open space, but he would have to check with his staff to ensure they can make the slope of that land safe for children.
“We’ll definitely do something nice in that area,” he said.
One resident spoke during public comment to say that he does not want apartments near his backyard, citing concerns over crime rates and privacy and referencing other apartment complexes in Reedley that neighborhoods have had issue with.
Reedley Police Chief Joe Garza said that good management and screening at apartment complexes is key in preventing those types of issues. Yanez said that all of their apartment complexes heavily screen applicants and that it is “kind of tough for (people) to qualify.”
“We want to make sure that we have good tenants in our development,” Yanez said.
He added that the majority of residents who move out of other apartment complexes managed by Yanez Construction leave because they become homeowners.