Why You Might Think Twice About Moving to Fresno

The old adage is true: no one is more critical about their place of residence than those who call it home. But if outsiders start talking smack — yeah, that’s definitely not OK.

So, speaking as a proud Fresno native, I can comfortably say that when people refer to the city as the armpit of California, they’re not entirely wrong. It’s hot, smelly and no stranger to hardship — but, hey, what’s a community without a little character.

It’s hot.

Like boiling, dry-as-dust hot that can confuse any California newcomer who may be expecting climates similar to what they saw on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” (No judgment here on your TV preferences. This is a safe space.)

Temperatures regularly soar to 100-plus degrees in the summer months, which heat up as early as May around these parts. And come August — it’s brutal. In fact, this year’s summer heat wave resulted in the loss of nearly 10,000 Central Valley dairy cows due to evening temperatures staying above the 80-degree mark. But don’t worry. It tends to cool down in October … slightly.

We’re the shade of red in a blue state.

Or purple, if you take Fresno County’s latest political stats into account. This could be a plus or minus depending on your political point of view. We’re notoriously conservative given California’s illustrious left-leaning beliefs, yet there are actually more registered Democrats than Republicans. Go figure.

Maybe it’s our farming-based mentality or the fact that Texas’ Dallas and Houston communities are considered more liberal than Fresno, according to a study published in the “American Political Science Review,” that makes that right-wing perception hard to shake. It’s generally safe to parallel our city’s politics to our geographical location in this proud blue state: middle-of-the-road.

Poverty is a problem.

One in four Fresnans is living in poverty — an improvement from the startling figure of 28.8 percent recorded in 2013, but still not below the numbers documented before the Great Recession. About 40 percent of children in the county are living in poverty, according to a 2016 Children Now report, making Fresno County’s youth the largest concentration of poverty in all of California. Just as that reality can be seen and felt throughout all areas of our community, so can the various efforts in place working to see that number continue its steady decline.

Our air quality is horrible.

If you’re not already susceptible to allergies, asthma or any other breathing irregularities, chances are inhaling Fresno’s lethal ozone pollution will introduce you to a few. Ready to be scienced?

Ozone and PM2.5, microscopic particles released into the air or secondary particles formed by the interaction of gases and particles in the atmosphere, are associated with a lengthy list of health problems, including lung cancer, developmental delays and even premature death. And the 559 — well, we have one of the highest concentrations of PM2.5 in the nation.

This can be attributed to the region’s excessive volume of oil and gas drilling and the Central Valley’s unfortunate bowl-like shape that traps all of the unhealthy particulate matter in the atmosphere at a constant, year-round level. And thanks to climate change (which is definitely not #fakenews), Fresno’s pollution situation is only going to get worse: dry heat means prime conditions for ozone formation and a greater chance of wildfires.

Still, Fresno’s affordability, growing arts and entertainment scene and direct access to fresh, seasonal produce remain positive standouts for residents and visitors alike. You may just need to invest in an dust mask or two first.



Dani Villalobos