In Regards To The Pending Sale Of Tower Theater To Adventure Church in Fresno | Eve Reiland

Wrote an email to my councilmember about the pending sale of Tower Theater to a Adventure church.

They responded. I’ll share both communications below, as well as information on how to contact council members, related news and community advocacy efforts. Please connect with Save Tower Theater on Facebook for the most recent information and calls to action.

What I learned in short:

The potential buyers can request a zoning change but there’s a lot of hoops to jump through and the community will have opportunity to voice their thoughts. So for that I’m grateful and I’m thankful to have such a quick response back on the the issue.

Autistically,

Eve Reiland


For more information and updates:

Facebook Group: Save Tower Theater

Save Tower Theater Facebook Page Update:

Text:

The Tower Theatre is being taken over by a local church outside of the authorized use of the Fresno Municipal Code and Tower District Specific Plan. This unintended and unauthorized use threatens the cultural experience, identity of our district, as well as the viability, economic recovery of the entire business district and surrounding neighborhood. Respectively, the sale also compromises the conditional use permits of the existing Tower District bars, restaurants and nightclubs and would consequently limit the ability of future businesses to occupy areas adjacent to the theatre with the need for special permits. It is important to note that regardless of the type of business, it is expected that every business operating within the Tower District and beyond be held to the same universal code and zoning restrictions.

Municipal Codes and Community Plans are well thought out plans that are developed over many years with significant public input to ensure the community’s interest and stated desire for the future of their neighborhoods are respected and upheld. While our existing businesses find themselves shuttered, the theatre and occupying church, continue to operate without any legal authority or conditional use permits. They operate indoors, en masse, with live unmasked onstage worship concerts, and without proper social distancing; therefore defying local health orders, shelter orders, and the municipal code that existed prior to and will exist after COVID. As a community we need you to speak up by reaching out to City leaders and elected officials to implore them to hold every business equally accountable under the municipal code and preserve one of Fresno’s last historic film and entertainment venues – the cornerstone of our district.

Contact Code enforcement: (559) 621-8400

Contact your elected representatives:

District 1 (Olive Ave North)
Councilmember Esmeralda Soria
(559) 621-8000 and ask for the District 1 office, or email district1@fresno.gov, or Esmeralda.soria@fresno.gov

District 3 (Olive Ave South)
Councilmember Miguel Arias
(559) 621-8000 and ask for the District 3 office, or email district3@fresno.gov, or Miguel.arias@fresno.gov

The time to act is now! Please contact and express your views. We will continue to share factual information on this page as it becomes available and provide the community with this public forum to organize. While we recognize strong feelings may exist, we wish to keep discourse respectful and to the facts. Our goal is fair application of the code, not social discord, or commentary on religion. We have an obligation to hold the community together and stand in solidarity, which we will strive to do so. If the sale is driven by financial hardship, we wish to show sympathy, not scorn, and start a process in which the community, its leaders and elected officials could provide aid in finding a buyer interested in preservation of its traditional operation for the benefit of the entire community for generations to come.


Peaceful gathering information here.

Related News & Info:

‘It’s going to be devastating’: Business and arts community react to church buying Tower Theatre | YourCentralValley.com


Voice your concerns so they count:

Contact your elected representatives:

Councilmember Esmeralda Soria
(559) 621-8000 and ask for the District 1 office, or email district1@fresno.gov, or Esmeralda.soria@fresno.gov


Councilmember Miguel Arias
(559) 621-8000 and ask for the District 3 office, or email district3@fresno.gov, or Miguel.arias@fresno.gov


Text:

Is what I’m hearing true? There’s a Church of Hate moving into Tower Theater? An anti-gay and anti-everything that Tower District community embraces? Seriously? Please say it isn’t true.

This is my home, my people and has been since I was a child. There’s a reason I live here and not elsewhere in Fresno.

If this change of ownership is true, how horrible. I imagine these folks are congratulating themselves landing into the middle of my neighborhood to disrupt our community. Well, if that’s the case, I’ll be visiting Fab as often as I can when they have services.

This is my ‘hood, community and home. Hate isn’t welcome here.


Email Sent:

Greetings Councilmember Esmeralda Soria,

Good morning. My husband and I are residents of the Tower District. This area and community has been a ‘home’ for me since I was a teen. I’m Fresno-born and grew up here and in Madera. I’ve lived most of my adult life in Fresno and many of those years, including the last five, I have been a resident of the district.

Tower District is a place where people like me, who are different than the average Fresnan, are accepted and even embraced. Growing up different in the Central Valley was very difficult and this community has always been a place of acceptance. Now I’m worried this culture might change with the addition of Adventure Church at the Tower Theater.

I am concerned about the Tower Theater sale to the proposed owners and the negative effect it can create for the Tower District culture and community here. It’s come to my attention this particular church is anti-gay and anti-equality and problematic in many areas that embrace diversity.

Also troubling, I’ve seen members of this church standing outside the theater, bucking the Pandemic protocols to congregate regardless of Covid-19 precautions. They are obviously not following safety protocols and social distancing, and already are showing themselves to be not a good community partner.

I’m also concerned about a church being placed on Tower Districts Commercial Main Street Zone and how that will negatively impact Tower District businesses. Adventure Church asking for a rezoning of the theatre will compromise the licenses of established businesses. It will negatively impact the ability to operate future businesses in this district too. It will change the entire culture here that’s been cultivated since the conception of Tower District until now.

There are other available options for purchase that don’t create such conflict with zoning, and harm our community businesses. Bars and restaurants aren’t permitted to operate within areas that have schools and churches. The same should apply to churches not moving in near areas that are zoned for bars and restaurants.

Churches can be a great community partners without disrupting the livelihood of the business owners here.

While I realize the moral reasons for not wanting this church at the theater are not something that can be addressed by the city — I do want to share that it does concern me greatly about what this group is bringing our community. I have yet to see any outreach or community connection happening by these folks. What I have seen is a disregard for public health and safety when they socialize outside the theater, without social distancing and not wearing masks, on meeting days.

The Tower businesses and community here have worked very hard to comply and help slow or stop the spread of Covid-19. Many business owners here are incredible community partners and do their best to support the vulnerable folks in our neighborhoods, including the homeless and those living with severe mental illness.

I’ve seen many business owners here working hard to be a good community member and greatly appreciate their efforts and successes.

Are the members of this church going to commute in to attend church at the theater, use the building and then commute back home without ever becoming a part of our community here? So far this seems to be the pattern.

While the Tower District does have it’s share of challenges, the culture here is one of love, compassion and community. Residents here tend to embrace differences, rather than reject them. We are a tight-knit community that feels like a city within a city. I’m concerned, and even anxious, what this means for our celebrations like Pride Parade and Reel Pride.

Is this church here to support and be a part of our community – or are they here to disrupt our community with their belief-system and agenda?

Will this church and it’s members create tension at these events and make me feel unsafe to bring my children, family and friends to attend?

Does a church’s tax exempt status mean Tower Theater won’t be generating funds that go back into our community?

I’d love to think these church folks might evolve if they get to know us, but they’ve done no outreach or connected with anyone in this community that I can find.

I believe they are here to pray at us, not with us.

I’m not sure how to advocate in this process outside of sending an email and sharing about it on my networks of friends and people. What else can I do to help support my community here?

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Autistically,

Eve Reiland


Email received:

Good evening Ms. Reiland,

I want to thank you for contacting me with concerns of a pending sale of the Tower Theater. I share some of your concerns given the value this historic and iconic entertainment venue represents to the neighborhood’s economic vitality.

Over the last week, I worked with city staff to determine allowable uses of the theater. The City Attorney and Planning Director have determined that the current use of religious assembly is not allowed in this facility nor in the current Commercial-Main Street zoning. The City Manager and City Attorney has notified both the property owner and potential buyer of the findings.

The property owner or buyer will have an opportunity to submit a Rezone, Plan Amendment and Conditional Use Permit application to pursue the change of use. This request must be approved by several public committees including the Tower District Design Review Committee, District 1 Committee, Planning Commission prior to the Fresno City Council’s consideration. The public will have ample opportunity to express their support or opposition. The city does not guarantee approval of any zoning applications received.

Please continue to follow us on social media for updates.

Esmeralda Soria

City Councilwoman, District 1


The homepage of the church’s website says, “A church isn’t a building — it’s the people.”

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