The City of Fresno appears to have cleared a major legal hurdle in its effort to turn the Fulton Mall back into Fulton Street. FM89’s Joe Moore reports.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Kimberly Mueller ruled in favor of the city in a federal lawsuit brought by Fulton Mall supporters who want want stop the project. Muller also denied the Downtown Fresno Coalition’s request for an injunction on the project, which could clear the way for construction as soon as next month.
The coalition claims the city didn’t follow federal environmental laws when it was planning the project. They want the mall to stay in its current form as a pedestrian-only zone, and call it a historic landmark. The city says removing the 52 year-old mall and replacing it with a street is necessary to support revitalization on what was once downtown's main thoroughfare.
City spokesperson Mark Standriff says the win is vindication for city hall and big step forward.
Standriff: “We obviously had felt very strongly that we had done our due diligence, and that all the I’s had been dotted and the T’s were crossed. And so we’re just really looking forward now to start making the changes that we know are going to be very exciting for people who have been waiting for something dynamic to turn things around downtown.”
It’s the second legal victory for the city on the project. In 2014, the city also won a Fresno County Superior Court case brought by the same group.
Doug Richert with the coalition says they’re still trying to determine their next step following Wednesday's ruling, but points out that the group has an appeal of the earlier case pending. And he says even if the project moves forward, his group wants to remain a fiscal watchdog to keep the project on budget.
Richert: “To make sure that money is not taken from streets and public safety to pay for the mayor’s pet project.”
Standriff says the administration plans to update the city council Thursday on its effort to bring the project budget under the $20 million budget cap imposed last year.