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‘Cesar Chavez Boulevard’ coming to life in South Fresno. Street signs are going up

Workers for Kroeker Construction swap out signs for portions of California and Ventura avenues and Kings Canyon Road for their new name, starting west near Marks Avenue and moving eastward.
Kerry Klein
/
KVPR
Workers for Kroeker Construction swap out signs for portions of California and Ventura avenues and Kings Canyon Road for their new name, starting west near Marks Avenue and moving eastward.

FRESNO, Calif. – The renaming of a large south Fresno traffic corridor officially began on Wednesday as – one by one – signs for a stretch of California and Ventura avenues and Kings Canyon Road are being swapped out for the new “Cesar Chavez Boulevard.”

The newly named corridor will extend 10 miles from Marks to Peach avenues.

Jason Dedekian, a foreman for Kroeker Construction, which is replacing the signs, estimates the sign swap will take weeks. The city estimates full sign replacement will be wrapped up by the end of July.

“Around a couple hundred signs are going to have to be replaced,” Dedekian said.

Cesar Chavez Boulevard honors the labor icon and civil rights activist who co-founded the United Farm Workers union. It has been an on and off dream first proposed more than 30 years ago.

The resolution first approved in 1993 was vetoed by then-Mayor Jim Patterson, who now represents the area in the state legislature. The City Council resumed discussions on the resolution in 2022, and it was passed in March 2023 under Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer.

But a month later, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected the name change on streets that fall outside the city within county jurisdiction. County supervisors argued the city hadn’t adequately garnered community input on the change.

Signs are being swapped out along portions of California Ave., Ventura Ave. and Kings Canyon Rd., for their new name, starting west near S. Marks Ave. and moving eastward.
Kerry Klein
/
KVPR
Street signs are being swapped out along portions of California and Ventura avenues and Kings Canyon Road, for their new name, starting west near Marks Avenue and moving eastward.

Public comment during that supervisors meeting was robust. While many residents and business owners expressed their support for the name change, others worried that it elevated one community — particularly Latinos — at the expense of the African-American community that for so long has had roots along the corridor, and California Avenue in particular.

Still, the project continued within city limits. And concerns still linger.

Sukhdev Singh has owned a convenience store on California Avenue for decades. He said the logistics of the name change are daunting — for instance, the number of bills and government forms that need to be changed.

“Everybody has to change their address. It’s a lot of work,” he said.

Sam, a cashier at another liquor store on California Avenue, who only wanted to provide his first name, suggested that the city should have chosen a newer street for the name change, or simply developed a new street with the name.

California Avenue “is an old street, and it’s an old neighborhood…it’s been too long,” he said.

Kroeker Construction began replacing signs near the intersection of Marks and California avenues in southwest Fresno and will work their way eastward.

Dedekian says his company is keeping the old signs, just in case the project changes course once more.

Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.