Environmental Racism in West Fresno

Environmental Racism in West Fresno
A coalition in West Fresno is seeking justice in their community. A hearing at the Fresno City Council was held in April where residents urged the City Council to require Darling International, a meat rendering plant located next to a residential neighborhood, to get a conditional use permit.

For decades, West Fresno residents have endured health and safety hazards created by corporate giant Darling International Inc.’s

meat rendering plant. Though sited within yards of West Fresno residences, Darling’s plant has long operated under a de facto unrestricted license for its meat rendering and processing activities.

On April 14, a coalition that includes the Concerned Citizens of West Fresno, the Fresno Metro Ministry, California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) and Communities for a New California presented their concerns to the Fresno City Council, asking it to force Darling to apply for a conditional use permit. They provided background and history of the issues related to Darling’s health and environmental threats to the community.

One speaker before the City Council was Rev. B.T. Lewis, pastor of the Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church. Here is what Rev. Lewis said:

We need your help in ensuring that Darling International is held to comply with the laws and regulations that govern the operation of businesses in our city. Please require them to get a conditional use permit appropriate for their business.

In 1979, my family moved into the house on 440 West North, just across the street and around the corner from the Darling plant. This became our family home for over 20 years. During our stay there, we were plagued by unbearable odors, swarming flies and gatherings of stray dogs attracted to the odor and residue around the plant. The odor often became so pungent that picnics were impossible and spending time in the yard was insufferable.

Imagine not only to have to endure the stench of dead animal carcasses in your yard but having the same intolerable odor passing through the ventilation system of your home presenting a nuisance as you eat your dinner or as you sleep in the evening. This is an experience reflected in many homes and families in southwest Fresno.

It is ironic that directly across the street from the Darling plant that the city redeveloped a garbage dump into a park. Directly south of Hyde Park, we have a fenced area that we are not allowed to go into. The fact is that we have no idea what’s buried behind Hyde Park.

West Fresno has been inundated for years with the dumps, slaughterhouses, waste processing plants and dairies necessary to support life in our community. These businesses have been planted in our community more than any other area of our city. It is an unfortunate and horrendous fact that our city has continued to approve and allow housing, schools and other community projects to be developed in such close proximity to the Darling plant.

The sickening odor travels across southwest Fresno like a plague, a sweltering plague in the heat of the summer. Some of us have witnessed trucks traveling through our neighborhood dripping with runoff from the waste being transported. These are the same streets that our children and citizens use daily.

We need your help in ensuring that Darling International is held to comply with the laws and regulations that govern the operation of businesses in our city. Please require them to get conditional use permits appropriate for the business they do in our city.

After listening to public testimony, the City Council went into closed session to discuss Darling International. A decision was not reached, and another closed session was scheduled for April 28.

“We hope the City Council is taking the time to consider yesterday’s powerful testimony regarding the last 40 years of injustice in West Fresno and to ensure that every person in the City is afforded the same rights and protections,” says Kara Brodfuehrer, an attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance. “No one business is above the law, and the abatement agreement is not the answer.”

For more information, contact Mary Curry with Concerned Citizens of West Fresno at 559-233-9348.


  • Mike Rhodes

    Mike Rhodes is the executive director of the Community Alliance, was the editor of this newspaper from 1998 to 2014 and the author of several books. Contact him at mikerhodes@fresnoalliance.com.

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[…] and southwest neighborhoods—plagued by generational poverty, segregation and the literal poison of unchecked pollution—live, on average, 20 years […]

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