Controversial apartment complex to begin construction soon

Building permits have been filed for a 200-unit upscale apartment complex at the corner of Shirk and Doe

VISALIA – A luxury apartment complex residents rallied against last fall is now closer than ever to construction at the northeast corner of Shirk Road and Doe Avenue.

On Sept. 15, property owner TriCounty Bank obtained a permit to begin building a 200-unit apartment complex across from the Visalia Industrial Park, according to Sierra2theSea News Service. The $4 million project proposes 21 two-story buildings that will house 88 one-bedroom apartments and 112 two-bedroom apartments, nine garage structures, carports and street parking with a total of 433 parking stalls. The complex will also include a 4,500-square foot club house building with an arbor, park area, open space, swimming pool and spa.

About 150 people attended a hearing on Oct. 16, 2019 to convince the Visalia City Council to overturn the planning commission’s approval of the project. The residents presented the council with a petition signed by more than 140 neighbors opposing the project. Residents living in nearby single family homes said they were concerned with living next to multi-family housing because they didn’t think the developer would be able to find tenants willing to pay $1,400 per month for an upscale apartment. One resident chided the project as “a big city L.A. project by a big city L.A. developer and is not right for our town.”

Developer Christopher Owhadi, whose Ocean Point Development is based in Fresno, held two meetings with the residents prior to the hearing to listen to their concerns. He made several concessions in his conditions to address the issues including building a 7- to 8-foot block wall where the complex faces surrounding homes; exceeding and, in same cases, quadrupling the required set back of apartments facing the subdivision to the east from 25 feet to between 35 and 120 feet; relocating and adding noise-dampening barriers to the large air conditioning units to cool the two-story apartment buildings; planting trees in front of second story windows overlooking backyards; adding 133 parking stalls to prevent street parking on narrow roads outside the gated community; and reducing the number of apartment units from 261 down to 200 to alleviate possible traffic congestion in an already congested area.

Prior to purchasing the 22.5 acres on Shirk and Doe, Owhadi said Ocean Point Development carefully investigated the current zoning and the General Plan zoning of the property to ensure they were aligned with the project. Over the next year, Owhadi said he went back and forth with the planning department to mitigate all of the issues raised by nearby residents, including paying for a noise study with a third-party contractor that was selected by city staff.

“We want to be part of the community and we want to be a good neighbor,” Owhadi said. “They asked for concessions and we want to make concessions and want to work with the community. Approve this development and I will build a project everyone will be proud of.”

Owhadi had been through a similar experience four years earlier when the city council overturned the planning commission’s approval of upscale apartments across town at the corner of Ben Maddox and K Street in January 2015. The council denied that project on the basis it did not conform with the city’s general plan, which was adopted just two years earlier but had not taken effect when the project application was filed.

The council voted 4-1 to uphold the commission’s approval of the project because the developer worked to address many of the concerns of the residents and because the project was more desirable than other projects allowed under the service commercial zoning. According to the general plan, the property’s zoning includes auto sales and repair, storage facilities, equipment rental, wholesale businesses, and retail not typically located in shopping centers, all of which would be allowed by-right, meaning it would not need approval from the planning commission or city council.

Start typing and press Enter to search