Empty storefronts like these at the Hanford Mall could have new tenants thanks to an amendment to city zoning laws, allowing non-retail businesses to open in commercial residential areas in Hanford. 

Non-retail Hanford businesses will now be able to set up shop outside the Downtown area thanks to the most recent decision to change the City’s zoning laws.

On Tuesday evening, Hanford City Council passed Zoning Text Amendment 2021-01, by a 3-2 vote by councilmembers Kalish Morrow, Amanda Saltray and Mayor Francisco Ramirez. 

According to Morrow, the amendment will allow for non-retail businesses to locate outside of the Downtown Hanford area and into commercial regional areas of the town, such as the Costco development area or the Hanford Mall. These businesses include (but are not limited to) medical, dental, laboratory and optometry services, professional services and catering businesses.

“So really what that means is that these other — the commercial regional areas — will have a lot more flexibility in what kind of businesses that they can have,” Morrow said. “In terms of whether it’s the Costco development building more of the spaces… or the mall being able to fill their vacancies.”

“The Hanford Mall is pleased with the council’s decision last evening," said Joanne Doerter, general manager for the Hanford Mall. "The change in zoning will allow us to expand on the services that we haven’t been able to offer to our customers and seniors, such as medical and eyecare services.” 

The changes have not come without detractors. Before the vote, Councilmember Brieno expressed his own concerns regarding the impact this would have on Downtown Hanford, especially as the area recovers from the economic impact of COVID-19. 

"I'm thinking that a change is coming — I don't have a disagreement — change is coming," Brieno said. "We just came out of a pandemic. I see it that soon we're going to be reconsidering this again. But I think it should be at the appropriate time."

Morrow explained that the zoning had originally been put in place largely to preserve and anchor Hanford’s downtown area as big box stores came in. However, she believes this will no longer be an issue and that Downtown Hanford will survive if these businesses open up in commercial residential areas.

“Maybe there will be some businesses that leave, but I don’t think that there’s going to be the exodus. I think that’s a lot of speculation,” Morrow said. “And I think that the original intent was very pure — it was meant to preserve the Downtown.”

Councilmember Art Brieno cast the only vote against the measure, while Vice Mayor Diane Sharp voted to abstain, citing commercial interests.

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