Fresno Healthy Neighborhoods Alliance

Please sign our petition urging the City of Fresno Planning Commission & City Council to safeguard our health & safety.

Say No to a Gas Station and Convenience Store With Alcohol Sales at Copper and Maple

A gas station and convenience (alcohol carry-out) store has been proposed for a four-acre site in the midst of six neighborhoods: Heights on Copper, Kensington, One Opus, Sageberry, Tresanna and Villa Alicante.

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.  All six neighborhoods are within 1,000 feet of the gas station.

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 there are adverse effects on children who pass an alcohol outlet on their way to school, which is of particular concern given how close Fugman Elementary School is to the proposed site. We believe a new carry-out store should not be permitted within 1,000-feet of an establishment; in this case the Rite-Aid that already sells alcohol. Nor should carry-out stores be allowed in the midst of a residential area and where children will pass on their way to and from school.

Lastly, another gas station-convenience store that will sell alcohol was approved in April of this year for development at the corner of Copper and Friant, less than 1 mile away.  We see absolutely no need for this community to have two new gas stations and liquor stores, particularly so close together with an elementary school in between.

Please sign our petition urging the City of Fresno Planning Department, the Planning Commission and the Fresno City Council to deny the Conditional Use Permit needed to build the gas station and convenience (carry-out) store.

What is the Fresno Healthy Neighborhoods Alliance?

The Alliance was formed by those living in the six neighborhoods pictured below.  Many of the residents of the six neighborhoods are threatened by a proposal to build a new gas station and a convenience store with alcohol sales nearby.

We Support the Development of this Site into a Thriving Retail Center, However the Cost of a Gas Station and Liquor Store is Too High a Price to Pay

For further information about the Alliance contact us at FresnoHealthyNeighborhood@gmail.com.  The Alliance has retained CEDS to assist in preserving the six neighborhoods.  You can reach CEDS president Richard Klein at 410-654-3021 (in Baltimore) or Rklein@ceds.org.

The Proposed Gas Station & Convenience Store

The gas station and convenience store have been proposed by DA Real Estate Holdings for a four-acre site at 1880 East Copper Avenue, which 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.

While the comment period was supposed to end on July 17th, we won an extension.  If you are troubled by how this project could affect your neighborhood then please consider submitting a protest letter.  Following is a link to the letter submitted by the Alliance, if you’re looking for ideas for your own: https://ceds.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/AMENDED-Protest-Letter-Anthony-Yu-1.docx.  Please email your letter to:

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

The two most common control measures are Stage II Vapor Recovery and Onboard Refueling Vapor Recovery (ORVR).

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.

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

Community & Environmental Defense Services (CEDS) is assisting Fresno, CA residents with concerns regarding the proposed addition of a convenience store that would sell alcoholic beverages for consumption elsewhere (off-sale) within 1,000-feet of their neighborhoods.  As shown in the aerial below, this would be the second off-sale establishment in close proximity to the neighborhoods. Unlike the existing establishment (Rite-Aid) the proposed convenience store would be open for alcohol sales 24/7.  And there’s yet another gas station-convenience store alcoholic beverage outlet that’s been approved less than a mile away at Copper Avenue and Friant!

We reviewed a number of scientific studies relevant to the potential effect of the 24/7 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 store could increase crime and other adverse health effects, especially if the store is 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 two laws intended to protect residents from an excessive concentration of alcoholic beverage carry-out stores.

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control limits the number of carry-out (off-sale) outlets to no more than three in a Census Tract.   The following website allows one to lookup the number of existing (off-sale) outlets by census tracts and in other ways: https://www.abc.ca.gov/licensing/license-lookup/.  There are currently two carry-out (off-sale) outlets in the Census Tract 55.03 where the gas station-convenience store is proposed. One is located within a thousand feet of the proposed outlet; the other is two miles away.

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.

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