Fresno council approves BUILD Act for infill

Vacant lot in FresnoVacant lot in Fresno
The Fresno City Council on Thursday approved a building code change recommended by Clinton Olivier, Fresno’s District 7 city councilmember, to encourage builders to construct homes on empty lots throughout the city.

Known as the BUILD Act, the legislation exempts infill builders from development impact fees including police facilities, park facilities, fire facilities and major streets and traffic fees. BUILD is an acronym for Best Utilization of Infill Land Development.

Under the plan, the city will consider the fees paid at the time the original home was built as adequate for building a new home on the empty lot.

Plan-check, water connection and wastewater fees still apply.

It applies to single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes that once stood, but no longer exist because of fire loss or teardown on property where infrastructure is already in place.

Only replacement projects that do not intensify the use of the lot are eligible. For an example, a house could be built on a lot where a house once stood.

Putting a duplex on a lot where a single-family home once stood would not be eligible.

Building on vacant lots would be made equitable to tearing down and rebuilding existing structures, Olivier said.

City staff estimates that five to 10 lots would be filled annually.

City documents state that the fiscal impact of the BUILD Act is negligible to facilities accounts. Also, an increase in property tax revenue is expected once projects are completed and families return to redeveloped neighborhoods.

“The BUILD Act makes it easier for our blighted areas to be filled-in with new development,” Olivier said recently. “The fees that would be affected are those fees that have already been paid. It’s more fair and it fast-tracks much needed infill development.”

Olivier pointed out in a release that vacant lots are magnets for illegal dumping, weeds and crime.

Speaking recently to the Government Affairs Council of the Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce, he explained that as the law currently stands, a developer wanting to build on a vacant city lot could pay as much as $50,000 in impact fees including police, park, fire and street fees.

At the same time, the city provides incentives for builders to tear down houses and rebuild at reduced fee rates in infill areas, Olivier said. “We are encouraging people to go into neighborhoods and tear down houses,” he said.

Fresno currently has 2,184 vacant lots. Not all lots are eligible for the Build Act.

“The BUILD Act is creative, innovative public policy,” Olivier said.