FRESNO, CA--It was as controversial as it gets: The Transformative Climate Communities Collaborative Program (TCCP) allocation of $70 million in the hands of community members to unilaterally decide together what should be funded for the greater good of Fresno almost hit a brick wall in its final stages.
However, Southwest Fresno residents sought a moment of vindication in the last few seconds of the TCCP final round, as they were able to pass their draft plan #5, with the persistence of Southwest Fresno resident Mother Mary Curry and Pastor B.T.Lewis: The final vote took place last Oct. 4 at the Westside Church of God and the winning package was selected by a vote of 125 to 1. Voters overwhelmingly selected a package that included a West Fresno Satellite Campus for Fresno City College, the Martin Luther King Jr. Activity Center and public park, transportation improvements, affordable housing, urban greening and local economic development.
Downtown Fresno, Southwest Fresno, Chinatown and the California High Speed Rail have been the general heading for all submitted projects from the community teams, developers and collaborations. The City of Fresno and the Central Valley Community Foundation (CVCF) partnered together to provide support for the community meetings.
“I'm proud of the residents and stakeholders of all the communities that participated. This is the most collaborative process that Fresno and maybe the State of California has ever seen in the decisions of how to invest public dollars. More important than the projects that came out of this process was the spirit of unity and togetherness that people from different communities had for each other. In my opinion that was the ‘Transformational’ part of this process that will outlive the investments,” said Councilmember Oliver Baines, who chaired the TCCP Steering Committee.
The city of Fresno is the first in California to involve the community in a steering committee process where their vote counted toward the decision of disbursement of funds. Twenty-five projects were chosen, totaling $216 million in investment across Southwest, Chinatown, and Downtown Fresno, with $77 million requested from the (TCCP.)
The TCCP investment will result in a new Fresno City College West Fresno Satellite Campus; two new parks; several miles of new trails, sidewalks, and bike lanes; over 100 units of affordable and market-rate housing; community gardens; several hundred homes with new rooftop solar and insulation; an electric car share system; and, millions of dollars being poured into training people from the community to ensure that local residents are getting the jobs that result from this investment. The selected projects are included in the City of Fresno’s grant Concept Application submitted Wednesday, October 18 to the California Strategic Growth Council for their review.
Pending additional feedback from the Strategic Growth Council, the City of Fresno submits the Final Application Thursday, November 30 to them for review. Grant Awards are then announced by the California Strategic Growth Council in January 2018.
The series of community meetings had many people on edge in regards to the fairness of the process, as the consensus of votes seemed to change during each steering community meeting as well as the rules; people could not tell who was voting eligible versus who were spectators, and yet they still sat in the divided groups to give their opinions on projects. Members complained and they were heard on various occasions.
Teams that made the next round for their projects created displays for voting steering committee members and presented in open forums to give them a better vision of how the project fit the guidelines of the grant and greater good for the community areas identified.
The $70 million was approved by the California Strategic Growth Council in November 2016 for projects that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the development and implementation of neighborhood-level transformative climate community plans that include multiple, coordinated GHG emissions reduction projects that provide local economic, environmental, and health benefits to disadvantaged communities.
As the community looks on to the movement of the funding process, community members in Southwest Fresno still question the transparency of the displacement process for projects slated in their area; longtime residents are in fear of a gentrification process as what has taken place in Harlem New York and many other once predominantly impoverished and black or people of color neighborhoods.