Vacant commercial buildings known for degraded conditions targeted for City of Fresno inspections

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The city of Fresno began inspecting a series of damaged and vacant commercial buildings on Monday under an ordinance passed by city council in June.

The first is the old Gottschalks building on Fulton Street in downtown Fresno. Outside, most of the windows are broken and boarded up.

City councilor Miguel Arias enters with the inspectors. They all use cell phones as flashlights.

“This is the kind of thing we have to look at, the gas line is completely cut off,” Arias said, pointing up at the ceiling.

The 60,000 square foot building is completely dark and cavernous. It has been vacant for over 30 years, last occupied by Gottschalks in 1988.

Arias says buildings like these have become more than just horrors. He says they attract criminal activity and create fire hazards, forcing already understaffed police and fire departments to intervene.

“Our firefighters cannot keep up with the number of fires that break out in vacant commercial buildings,” he says.

The inspections are part of the Blighted Vacant Commercial Building Ordinance approved on June 17. Code enforcement officers will present to private owners a list of necessary improvements. Other properties are located downtown, in Chinatown, and along Belmont & Olive Avenue in the Tower District.

“So they’re going to have to spend money,” he said. “And either they’re spending the money to fix the building and rent it out, or they’re going to have to spend the money to pay the fines.”

And that includes the city, which owns the Gottshalks building. In a report released on Monday by the code enforcement team that inspected the Gottschalks building, it found a number of property nuisances, including violations of the fire, electrical, plumbing and mechanical code.

The other 19 buildings are privately owned and will be inspected in the next two months. Homeowners will be offered a financial incentive if they decide to turn the properties into housing. As part of the ordinance, the city has budgeted $ 25 million to invest in transforming one of the vacant commercial buildings into housing.


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