Visalia to build nearly 500 apartment units

Two, large apartment complexes are being planned along Caldwell Avenue, one with 342 units of affordable housing

VISALIA – More affordable housing is about to cross the threshold into Visalia. 

Two large multi-family projects totaling about 500 units are going through the city site plan review process this week. The largest, called Caldwell Apartments, is located at the northwest corner of Lovers Lane and Caldwell Avenue. The development sits on 11.4 acres with 342 units termed 100% affordable at various tiers to attract residents at various income levels. The project is being built by Bay Area-based Maracor Development.

The second project, Packwood Apartments, is a 144-unit, market-based complex being proposed by Ron Vander Weerd on 9.5 acres on Demaree Street south of Caldwell. The filings are part of a boom in apartment complex construction in Visalia after a slow decade of new apartment buildings. Visalia has permitted just 862 new apartment units in the city in the last 10 years.

There is plenty more space allocated and zoned for multifamily housing if the market can sustain it. The general plan already includes 320 acres for new apartment complexes in the tier 1 boundary, land designated for new development nearest to the city center, according to a city staff report. That translates to more than 4,200 units. That’s good news considering Visalia needs to build more than 6,000 affordable housing units by 2031, according to the Tulare County Regional Housing Needs Assessment, a roadmap to meeting objectives specified in state housing law. There is a massive shortage of housing in Visalia, especially affordable housing, as low inventory is driving up the cost of rentals and property values.

Property values up

Tulare County property values are up nearly 7% in the past year, according to the Tulare County Assessor-Clerk Recorder’s Office June report of the 2022-23 property rolls. Total valuation countywide is $43.4 billion, up from $40.6 billion in 2021-22.

Visalia, Woodlake and Dinuba were all up over 8%. Visalia valuation reached $14.7 billion, up 8.35% from 2021-22 when it was pegged at $13.6 billion. Woodlake was up 8.5% and Dinuba was just under 8%. Tulare was 6.2% higher and Porterville was 7.4% higher than the year before. Exeter came in at 6% higher and Farmersville was up 5.6%. Lindsay had the lowest rate of growth at just 2%. 

Amazon trucks to run on hydrogen

The two Visalia Amazon distribution centers will fuel at least some of their trucks with hydrogen, helping to clear the air as they move through the area. The state is promoting the plan to switch from fossil fuel-based diesel to hydrogen. To accommodate the new trucks, Amazon is installing hydrogen fuel tanks at their facilities in the Visalia Industrial Park. The permits are valued at $600,000.

Transportation is a major component of Amazon’s business operations, says the company, and hydrogen fuel is a key part of their plan to reach a net-zero carbon footprint by 2040. They are optimizing and transforming the transportation network through technological innovations, efficiency enhancements, and alternative solutions that allow them to deliver packages to customers more sustainably.

The transportation sector is responsible for roughly 28% of the carbon dioxide releases in the United States. Under pressure to cut emissions, truck manufacturers are choosing between batteries and hydrogen fuel cells. Amazon is investing in both. 

A NY Times story recently said “Daimler Truck and Volvo, the two largest truck manufacturers, argue that fuel cells that convert hydrogen into electricity — emitting only water vapor — make more sense because they would allow long-haul trucks to be refueled quickly.”

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