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Politics 101

Will Tower Theatre Sell to the City of Fresno?



The Fresno City Council will discuss a possible purchase of the Tower Theatre in closed session on Thursday. (GV Wire/David Taub)
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The Fresno City Council will discuss buying the Tower Theatre in a closed session on Thursday. The item is vaguely listed as “under negotiation: terms and conditions of property acquisition” for the property at 809 E. Olive Avenue.

Photo of GV Wire's David Taub

David Taub

Politics 101

It is the second straight meeting that councilmembers will discuss the issue privately.

Tower owner Laurence Abbate offered a clue about what could happen.

“We have kept a line in the water,” Abbate said of talks with the city. “It is too premature to discuss.”

Abbate has raised the ire of his Tower District neighbors, for an attempted sale of the theatre and surrounding property to Adventure Church. Weekly protests on Sundays — when the church leases the theatre for prayer — have called for the city to take some action. Demonstrators say the theatre is not zoned for religious assembly.

The sale to Adventure Church has been held up in court over a breach of contract issue with one of the Tower Theatre tenants, Sequoia Brewing Company. The restaurant/pub says it has the first right to buy the property it currently leases from Abbate. It successfully blocked the sale until a trial — scheduled for February 2023 — can take place.

The city had to get a court order to access the church to conduct an appraisal. In court documents, the city said it may use eminent domain to take the church’s parking lot, or the property itself.

Tower Theatre owner Lawrence Abbate (middle) shakes the hand of Mayor Jerry Dyer at a Tuesday’s pro-life rally at City Hall. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Also in Politics 101: 

  • Tower court fight is not a current priority for Dyer.
  • Dyer on filling vacancies at the Planning Commission.
  • The city rolls out a spending plan for $170 million in federal relief funds.

Dyer: Not a High Priority

Mayor Jerry Dyer said his office has been monitoring the Tower Theatre’s court battles from afar.

“It hasn’t been the highest priority for me, but we do keep track of it. We have an outside attorney that monitors it and updates us. And, so as time progresses, maybe we’ll have a better feel for the direction the city’s going to go,” Dyer said.

He disavowed any knowledge of what the city council will discuss this week.

“I don’t know what the closed session conversation is going to be. Oftentimes, there are things going on in closed session that aren’t heard. But I’ll find out Thursday,” Dyer said. “It didn’t come to me.”

The item is sponsored by the city attorney’s office (which serves under the direction of the city council).

Adventure Church Sues Tower Theatre

As first tweeted by ABC 30’s Corin Hoggard, Adventure Church is now suing the Tower Theatre owners for breach of contract.

Filed Tuesday in Fresno County Superior Court, the church alleged it had an agreement in October 2020 to purchase the entire parcel for $4.8 million.

When the church asked Abbate about the Sequoia Brewing Company issue, Abbate allegedly said “there was nothing to worry about.”

The church is willing to separate the portion leased by Sequoia Brewing company to facilitate the sale.

“(Adventure Church) has no objection to amending the contract to allow Tower Parties to legally divide the Brewery Premises from the Tower Theater Parcel,” the lawsuit states.

A preliminary court date is set for June 8.

No Timetable on Open Planning Commission Seats

There are two vacancies on the seven-member Fresno Planning Commission. Dyer is responsible for nominating members, with the city council confirming the decision.

Dyer is still vetting candidates.

“I had actually both of them filled or at least people who had accepted. One of those, unfortunately, had a conflict of interest based on their attorney. So I had to pull that name and then I’m seeking out a second one now,” Dyer said on Tuesday. He did not reveal any names.

Last November, commissioner Kathy Bray resigned. In December, Rob Fuentes resigned when he moved to Porterville to run for a state Senate seat.

Dyer isn’t obligated to pick a commissioner from any particular district, but he said that is his goal.

“I really am trying to be making sure that I have people on the planning commission that are from various parts of Fresno. I was really searching somebody out from (District) 5 in southeast Fresno and see if we can’t come up with somebody. But I have one person identified and will bring that person forward here, but I want to do them both at once,” Dyer said.

Only three of the seven council districts are represented on the planning commission, including District 5. Dyer clarified his plan this morning.

“I will be bringing forward someone representing D7 and the one vacancy recently created was from D3 (Rob Fuentes). In addition, DJ Criner who lives in D2, pastors a church in D3 and is a very strong advocate for D3. I am also open to D4 representation as well,” Dyer said.

Current Planning Commissioners

Name (political party) District Years
Peter Vang (chair) (D) 5 2017-current; 2nd term
Term expires: June 30, 2022
Brad Hardie (vice chair) (R) 2 2018-current; 1st term
Term expires: June 30, 2022
Lourdes Monica Diaz (other) 2 2019-current; 1st term
Term expires: June 30, 2022
Rev. David (DJ) Criner (American Independent) 2 2020-current; 1st term
Term expires: June 30, 2023
Haley Wagner (American Independent) 1 2021-current; 1st term
Term expires: June 30, 2024

Fresno Reveals ARPA Spending Plan

At Thursday’s Fresno City Council meeting, Dyer’s administration will present its spending plan for some of the $170 million in ARPA federal relief dollars.

The plan to spend the first $85 million includes $25 million in neighborhood infrastructure — the largest single item. The list also includes $10 million each in public sector revenue replacement, and community partnerships. A full list can be found here.

In an online survey conducted by the city (with less than 1,000 respondents), spending on the public health emergency was rated as the top priority. Approximately two-thirds rated public health as the first or second priority. Combatting homelessness, public safety and infrastructure were other priorities, the survey said.

The mayor’s office will also present its mid-year budget review. Most estimates in the revision were accurately predicted last year. Overall, the city has $16 million more in revenue than projected and $35 million more in available funding.

No vote is scheduled. The agenda item is an update for the council.

David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email