Thursday , June 13 2024

A Tale of Two Cities: The growing Fresno divide

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Fresno is a city divided. Divided by income; divided by race; divided by education; divided even by life-expectancy. <br /><br />But this divide does not just hurt those on the wrong side of the statistics, it hurts the city as a whole. <br /> <br />In a small two bedroom apartment on the north edge of downtown Fresno, Brandi Blanco oversees what many might think impossible: dinner and homework with her five children, all of them remarkably well-behaved.<br /><br />If there are two distinct sides of Fresno, Blanco knows exactly on which side she falls.<br /><br />&quot;Other people ask, ‘where do you live? Oh how do you do it?,’&quot; Blanco said.&nbsp;<br /><br />She actually likes where she lives, the Lowell neighborhood, but says the difference between north and south Fresno is as simple for her as looking at grocery options.<br /><br />&quot;A lot better shopping areas everywhere else,&quot; Blanco says. &quot;But on our streets we have a liquor store on every corner.&quot;<br /><br />Dr. Matthew Jendian is not the first person to use the phrase &quot;a tale of two cities&quot; to describe Fresno, but he’s been studying it here since 1995.<br /><br />&quot;The tale of two cities is a story of a division within our community,&quot; Dr. Jendian says. &quot;Mostly along the lines of socio-economic demographics. Different people in different zip codes are effectively having different quality of life outcomes.&quot;<br /><br />Dr. Jendian gives a power point presentation on the subject, where he shows the simple divide between Fresno’s haves and have nots. Almost without fail, each map looks the same, whether its measuring ethnicity, education, or income.<br /><br />&quot;Even their lifetime expectancy is different based on zip code,&quot; says Jendian. &quot;So that’s what it means to live in this tale of two cities in Fresno.&quot;<br /><br />In north Fresno neighborhoods, the last thing residents would ever think about is poverty. But studies are showing that extreme poverty in one part of town can affect the entire city.<br /><br />For starters, a smaller tax base means less city services like police and fire. And then there is what Dr. Jendian calls brain drain. He says when there is not enough of an educated work force, business owners struggle to find good employees, which limits their economic growth.<br />And when growth stalls, many of the best educated candidates leave the valley making matters even worse.<br /><br />&quot;I would like to see my children stay in Fresno and the central valley,&quot; Jendian says. &quot;But if we don’t provide opportunities for them they’re going to leave.&quot;<br /><br />Back downtown, in Lowell, Esther Delahay tends her plot in a community garden that sits in the shadow of highway 180.&nbsp;She’s the executive director of the Lowell Community Development Corporation.<br /><br />&quot;I feel there’s just a huge disconnect,&quot; she said. &quot;Kind of a disunity. It’s not our city. It’s them that live on the south side and them that live in the north.&quot;<br /><br />Delahay has lived everywhere– north and south.&nbsp;This neighborhood is her favorite in Fresno, despite some very real problems.<br /><br />&quot;We see in healthy communities that home ownership is around 40 to 50 percent. Here it’s below 12 percent. So we see a gap there,&quot; Delahay says.<br /><br />Blight is a problem.&nbsp;Vacant homes dot each street, as do poorly maintained rental property with owners never to be seen. Delahay says it stands out after spending some time up north.<br /><br />Brandi Blanco, and others, will defend Lowell, saying the neighborhood is much better that others in disadvantage parts of Fresno.&nbsp;Still, the single mother knows her address alone means the odds are stacked against her family.&nbsp;When asked if she worried about her kids, she said yes, at times she does.<br /><br />&quot;I worry about the fact that they’ll be pushed to the bottom spectrum because of where they’ve been raised,&quot; Blanco says. &quot;What school they go to, and what nationality they are.&quot;<br /><br style="font-size: 13.3333330154419px;" /><span style="font-size: 13.3333330154419px;">KSEE24’s Evan Onstot examines this divide, its causes and its impact, in an in-depth three-part series. This is part one. Part 2 and 3 will air Monday and Tuesday night on KSEE24 News at 11.</span></div>

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