Fresno Healthy Neighborhoods Alliance
City Passes Responsible Neighborhood Market Act; May Nix Proliferation of Convenience-Liquor Stores!
On Thursday, October 15, the Fresno City Council passed the Responsible Neighborhood Market Act by a 6-1 vote.
This victory was made possible thanks to the hundred of Fresno residents who signed our petition, those who wrote to the Council and testified, along with strong support from our neighbors in southwest Fresno.
We believe the new law will halt the proliferation of liquor stores in our area and throughout the City. This may also stymie efforts to saturate our area with new gas stations. Both results preserve our health and safety.
Here is a link to a video of the meeting which features some powerful speeches from our neighbors. It is worth watching: http://fresno.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=890 (introductory remarks begin around 51:00, public comments begin around 1:08).
Unfortunately, one of the development companies seeking to add liquor stores and gas stations to our area – Granville Homes – has proven to be very persistent. While we certainly deserve a victory lap, it would be foolish to think we’ve won the war. Our goal should be to pressure the City to zone vacant commercial properties for uses that preserve and even enhance the quality of life that attracted us to north Fresno.
We will continue to update you periodically with major developments via this website, emails and our two social media accounts:
Copper River offers the best of life in Fresno: safety, cleanliness, first-rate schools, trails to the outdoors, and beauty. It’s why we chose to live here. That way of life is being challenged by those who wish to exploit our community for their personal financial gain. On July 17, a 24-hour gas station and convenience (alcohol carry-out) store was proposed at the northwest corner of Copper and Maple (1880 E Copper Ave). The community rallied together, forming the Fresno Healthy Neighborhoods Alliance, to oppose this unwanted development, a fight that continues to this day.
The Alliance learned during this process that a separate gas station-liquor store was already approved on April 10 by the city at the northeast corner of Copper and Friant (1000 E Copper Ave).
Then, on August 17, a second gas station with liquor store (Johnny Quik) and car wash was proposed at the northeast corner of Copper and Maple (2066 E Copper Ave) adjacent to Copper Academy Preschool in the Rite Aid plaza.
As shown in the aerial below, Copper River is now facing the unfathomable prospect of 3 gas stations and liquor stores along Copper Avenue within one mile of each other. One site (Copper/Friant) has already been approved. Join us to save this community from the other 2!
Current scientific research has documented that those living within 500- to 1,000-feet of a gas station are at risk for adverse health effects due to benzene and other harmful compounds released at the pump and vented from underground storage tanks. Unfortunately, only a 50- to 300-foot public health safety zone is required between new gas stations and the nearest home. While California has some of the best air pollution control requirements for gas stations in the U.S., the effectiveness of these measures in protecting area residents is unproven. The two proposed sites are within 1,000 feet of multiple neighborhoods and local businesses.
Additionally, epidemiological research has established a relationship between the number of alcoholic beverage carry-out stores in an area and crime as well as public health issues. For example, it has been shown that children who pass an alcohol outlet on their way to school are more likely to be exposed to alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs , which is of particular concern given how close Fugman Elementary School and Copper Academy Preschool are to the proposed sites. For further detail on this issue see the scientific study: Risk for Exposure to Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs on the Route to and from School: The Role of Alcohol Outlets.
Furthermore, Fresno is over-saturated with liquor stores. We have far too many per capita, and the city has taken steps to curb this trend with the Responsible Neighborhood Market Ordinance (RNMO). This new law that would decrease, not increase, the number of new liquor stores in our city. This ordinance, which may soon become law, would not permit a new carry-out store within 1,000-feet of an established store; in this case the Rite-Aid that already sells alcohol.
Please sign our petition urging the City of Fresno Planning Department, the Planning Commission, local Alcohol Beverage Control, and the Fresno City Council to deny these gas stations and liquor stores. We cannot stop the site at Copper and Friant, but we can fight to stop the two at Copper and Maple, fight to prevent Copper River from being overrun by gas stations and liquor stores, and fight to save our community!
What is the Fresno Healthy Neighborhoods Alliance?
The Alliance was initially formed by those living in the six neighborhoods surrounding the gas station and liquor store proposed at 1880 E Copper Ave. The Alliance has since expanded to include the 414 concerned neighbors living at 295 nearby addresses represented by the yellow dots in the aerial below. As you can see, these neighbors live throughout Copper River and the surrounding communities. To see what your neighbors are saying about the gas stations and convenience (liquor) stores click on: https://ceds.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Comments-12-7-2020.pdf
For further information about the Alliance contact us at FresnoHealthyNeighborhood@gmail.com. The Alliance has retained CEDS to assist in preserving Copper River nerighborhoods. You can reach CEDS president Richard Klein at 410-654-3021 (in Baltimore) or Help@ceds.org.
The Proposed Gas Stations-Convenience Stores
1880 East Copper Avenue
The 1880 East Copper Avenue 24-hour gas station-convenience store has been proposed by DA Real Estate Holdings. This four-acre site extends along the north side of Copper Avenue for about 750-feet west of North Maple Avenue. Below is the applicant’s site plan. The four-acre site is bounded by the pink-purple line with the gas station-convenience (liquor) store on the western area.
The project requires a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) from the City of Fresno. The 565-page application submitted by DA Real Estate Holdings can be viewed at: http://m3.fresno.gov/upload/files/40610630/CUPNo.P2000902.pdf. The City of Fresno Planning & Development Department is currently reviewing the application. The criteria for a Conditional Use Permit are in Article 53 of the City Code.
2066 East Copper Avenue – Johnny Quik
A planning application was been submitted to the Fresno Planning Department proposing to construct a 3,300 square foot convenience market and gas station with 8 fueling pumps in addition to a drive thru restaurant and automated self-serve car wash. Additionally, an application to obtain an Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) license to sell alcohol has also already been submitted. This gas station-liquor store would be in proposed Building 4 shown below.
This new establishment should not qualify on 2 counts:
- It is within 160 feet of Copper Academy Prechool (current minimum setback distance is 500 feet, will increase to 1000 feet with RNMO)
- It is within 360 feet of Rite Aid, an existing establishment that sells alcohol for off-site consumption (current minimum setback distance is 500 feet, will increase to 1000 feet with RNMO)
The deadline to contest the ABC license is September 19, 2020. Please complete the form for protesting this proposal which is posted at: https://ceds.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/ABC-protest-form.pdf. Email your completed form to Fresno@abc.ca.gov or mail it to: Fresno ABC, 1330-B East Shaw Avenue, Fresno, CA 93710-7902.
Please Submit A Protest Letter Opposing Both Projects
If you are troubled by how these projects could affect your neighborhood then please consider submitting a protest letter. Following is a link to the letter submitted by the Alliance, which provides ideas for your own letter: https://ceds.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/AMENDED-Protest-Letter-Anthony-Yu-1.docx. Please email your letter to:
- Jennifer Clark – Planning Director, email@example.com
- Councilman Gary Bredefeld, District6@fresno.gov
- Jose Valenzuela, Planning Staff Project Reviewer, Jose.Valenzuela@fresno.gov
- AND please cc FresnoHealthyNeighborhood@gmail.com
Health Effects: Is It Safe to Live Near a Gas Station?
A number of compounds injurious to human health are released from gas stations during vehicle fueling and from underground storage tank vents: benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene (BTEX). Of these, benzene is the gasoline constituent most harmful to human health. Adverse health effects of benzene include cancer, anemia, increased susceptibility to infections, and low birth weight. According to the World Health Organization Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality, there is no safe level for benzene. As explained later, measures to reliably resolve these adverse health effects are not employed at new gas stations.
In 2005, the California Air Resources Board recommended a minimum 50- to 300-foot public health safety zone between new gas stations and “sensitive land uses such as residences, schools, daycare centers, playgrounds, or medical facilities.” The recommendation appeared in Air Quality and Land Use Handbook: A Community Health Perspective. The State of California is widely recognized as having some of the most effective air pollution control requirements in the nation. Yet even with California controls a minimum separation was still required to protect public health.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency echoed concerns about the health risk associated with gas station emissions in their School Siting Guidelines. The USEPA recommended screening – but not excluding – school sites for potential health risk when located within 1,000 feet of a gas station.
The safety zone distances were prompted by the growing body of research showing that adverse health effects extend further and further from gas stations.
A seminal 2015 study contained the following summary regarding the health implications of living, working or learning near a gas station:
“Health effects of living near gas stations are not well understood. Adverse health impacts may be expected to be higher in metropolitan areas that are densely populated. Particularly affected are residents nearby gas stations who spend significant amounts of time at home as compared to those who leave their home for work because of the longer period of exposure. Similarly affected are individuals who spend time close to a gas station, e.g., in close by businesses or in the gas station itself. Of particular concern are children who, for example, live nearby, play nearby, or attend nearby schools, because children are more vulnerable to hydrocarbon exposure.”
A 2019 study of U.S. gas stations found that benzene emissions from underground gasoline storage tank vents were sufficiently high to constitute a health concern at a distance of up to 518-feet. Also, the researchers noted:
“emissions were 10 times higher than estimates used in setback regulations [like that in the California handbook] used to determine how close schools, playgrounds, and parks can be situated to the facilities [gas stations].”
Prior to the 2019 study it was thought that most of the benzene was released at the pump during fueling.
Control Measures Will Not Resolve Health Threat
A decade ago most gas pump nozzles were designed to capture vapors released during refueling. The vapors were then sent to the 10,000- to 20,000-gallon underground tanks where gasoline is stored. These Stage II vapor recovery systems were phased out beginning in 2012 as a result of the widespread use of Onboard Refueling Vapor Recovery (ORVR) systems.
As the name implies, Onboard Refueling Vapor Recovery systems are built into new cars. The system captures vapors during refueling which are then stored in canisters within the vehicle.
A study published in February, 2020, examined the effectiveness of Onboard Refueling Vapor Recovery systems. The researchers found that 88% of vehicles monitored released vapors during refueling despite the presence of Onboard Refueling Vapor Recovery systems.
The 2019 study cited previously addressed the release of benzene from underground gasoline storage tank vents. The 2019 study documented that the amount of benzene released was substantial and could be detected at a distance of up to 518 feet.
The unfortunate conclusion from these studies is that we cannot rely upon controls required for new gas stations to resolve the health and safety threat to those who live, learn, or work in the vicinity. At this point physical distancing of 500 feet or more is the only measure that appears to resolve the public health and safety impact.
While California has some of the best gas station air pollution control requirements in the U.S., the effectiveness of these measures in protecting area residents is unproven. Benzene appears to be the compound emitted from gas stations that poses the greatest public health risk. The California Air Resources Board requires measures that will reduce emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from gas stations by 95%. Though benzene is a VOC, it has not been proven that the control measures reduce benzene emissions sufficiently to protect public health.
Minimum 500-Foot Public Health Safety Zone Needed
Clearly, the 50- to 300-foot setback routinely required between new gas stations and sensitive land uses is no longer enough based on current science. So, please sign our petition urging the City of Fresno Planning Commission and the Fresno City Council to require a minimum 500-foot public health safety zone between the gas station site and the nearest residential property.
Alcohol Beverage Carry-Out Store, Crime & Public Health
We reviewed a number of scientific studies relevant to the potential effect of the two off-sale convenience store on crime and public health. The intent of this review was to provide neighborhood residents with a starting point for a discussion of the science regarding alcoholic beverage sales and neighborhood safety. We are now contacting the researchers to learn if they believe their findings are relevant to the proposed convenience/carry-out store and the Fresno neighborhoods.
The gist of these studies is that a positive relationship exists between crime as well as adverse health effects and the number of off-sale retail outlets in a given area. 24/7 outlets, like that proposed in the midst of the six neighborhoods, tend to have an even more negative effect. We’ve learned that alcohol sales at gas station convenience stores are particularly problematic. These outlets tend to sell alcoholic beverages for lower prices and in larger quantities, which could attract those living outside our six neighborhoods. Of greatest concern is that children passing by these outlets may be at increased risk, particularly those walking to and from an elementary school like Fugman.
These findings indicate that allowing off-sale of alcoholic beverages at the proposed convenience stores could increase crime and other adverse health effects, especially if the stores are open 24/7. Links to the studies and our lay interpretation of the findings can be viewed in the document posted at: https://ceds.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Crime-Alcohol-Studies.pdf
The State of California and the City of Fresno are to be commended for a law intended to protect residents from an excessive concentration of alcoholic beverage carry-out stores.
Section 15-2706, of the City of Fresno regulations, limits the number of alcoholic beverage carry-out stores to no more than four within a 1,000 foot radius. Based on the research cited above, we believe no new carry-out stores should be allowed within 1,000 feet of an existing off-sale outlet. The proposed convenience store would sell alcohol within a thousand feet of the Rite Aid which presently sells alsohol.
By signing the petition, you would be urging the City of Fresno Planning Commission and the Fresno City Council to use their authority to adopt our proposed restriction, which is based upon current scientific research.