City of Fresno sued by residents over recent street name change for Cesar Chavez
The lawsuit claims the city did not consider the financial impact of the name change on residents and businesses, among other issues.
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On March 9, Fresno City Council voted in favor of renaming a road to Cesar Chavez Boulevard in a 6-1 vote. It came 30 years after an initial failed attempt to rename the road in honor of the United Farm Workers union co-founder and pioneer labor leader.
However, a group of residents in Fresno are hoping to do away with the name change and have sued the city over its decision to rename the street. It’s a lawsuit that at least one councilmember described as “racist.”
Filed on July 10 in Fresno County Superior Court, the 43-page complaint alleges the city did not include the public's views and feelings when it voted to rename a stretch of Kings Canyon Road, Ventura Avenue/Ventura Street and California Avenue in southeast and southwest Fresno to Cesar Chavez Boulevard.
They allege the city didn’t take into account the “historic” nature of the existing street names as well as the financial impact of the name change on residents and businesses.
The lawsuit also says the council’s decision is a “direct attack” on west Fresno’s Black community, the Armenian community and called the renaming an effort to “hoist their ‘hero’ Cesar Chavez, above all other historical, cultural and financial considerations.”
The city is accused of violating free speech and free association by compelling members to “carry the City’s ideological and political message honoring Cesar Chavez” and “associate with a name and location to which they adamantly object.”
The lawsuit also points to the city’s alleged violation of equal protection laws by discriminating against the residents and business owners of the three impacted streets and “not renaming any of the other hundreds of streets in Fresno.”
The group is seeking monetary damages from the city including attorney fees.
An advocacy organization, 1 Community Compact, held a press conference in April where they called on all of the council to rescind the decision. They hinted at the possibility of a lawsuit at that time.
In the months since, the group’s “members and supporters have substantially grown to more than 1,000 individuals, including business owners and operators,” according to the lawsuit.
1 Community Compact alleges in the lawsuit that the city failed to form a citizens advisory committee with neighbors and businesses that would have allowed them to be heard, as promised in 2022.
As for Chavez, he is described in the lawsuit as having alienated many farmers, packing houses and grocery stores, that he wasn’t a Fresno native and was never a resident, that he’s already honored through a state paid holiday as well as in state educational curriculum, and through Fresno education institutions such as Cesar E. Chavez Adult Education Center, a downtown mural, in a statue at Fresno State, and in a mural at Edison High School.
An initial hearing is scheduled for November 2.