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Does Court Filing Mean Dyer Supports Tower Theatre Grab?

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The city of Fresno wants access to the Tower Theatre for an appraisal, according to court documents. Other documents indicate the city could use eminent domain to take not only the iconic theater but the surrounding parking lot as well.

A judge will hear the request on July 8. What is not entirely clear is who at City Hall is making the request — the city council or Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer’s administration.

While a filing — a declaration from city manager Thomas Esqueda — may provide a clue, Esqueda says eminent domain is not the goal.

“No, what it indicates is that we just want to understand the value of the property. We’ve been hearing all kinds of numbers running out there,” Esqueda said, responding to a question from GV Wire.

Dyer declined to comment when asked last week about his administration’s intentions.

‘Just Collecting Data’

As to why the Dyer administration wants to perform an appraisal, Esqueda said they are “just collecting data.”

“On this particular one … we’ve got different parties that want to understand the relationship between the different vendors, the parking lot, what are these things worth? Let’s just understand what these things are worth and understand what the arguments are about,” Esqueda said.

In prior statements, Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria said the request was to check on the historic theatre’s condition.

Court documents filed by the city make a similar argument. The city says it asked eight times for entry into the theatre. The theater owner has not consented to such a search.  “The City’s appraiser, like any member of the public, has the right to access Tower Theatre as a national historic icon,” a court filing says.

The theater has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1992. Plaques commemorating the honor hang in front of the theater. A recent visit by GV Wire revealed no apparent signs of distress inside the theater or lobby.

Esqueda’s Declaration

Esqueda filed a declaration — a document containing a signed statement of fact — for the inspection case. Judge D. Tyler Tharpe is hearing the case.

“The City is considering a potential acquisition of a property interest, or alternatively further regulations, of Tower Theatre, for all legally permitted public purposes, including historic preservation, of this nationally historic icon. At this time, the City is unaware of the condition of the property and seeks an appraisal of Tower Theatre as a first step to weigh its options,” Esqueda said in a signed document.

Esqueda’s declaration also discusses parking saying “it has recently come to the City’s attention that there may not be sufficient public parking in the Tower District. … The existing parking lot on the Tower Theater [sic] property is a potential location for additional public parking.”

Asked last week about why the city inquired about the parking lot, Esqueda couldn’t remember what was in his declaration.

“I haven’t heard that. So if that’s out there, I can tell you, I didn’t say that,” Esqueda said.

Esqueda offered to discuss the issue further with GV Wire but had not before the publication of this story.

No Decision on Tower Sale Lawsuit

“If the price was accurately set, we would want to buy our part of the parcel.”Sequoia Brewing Company owner Jeremy Smith

In a separate legal action, a tenant of the Tower Theatre complex is pushing forward in a lawsuit to block the sale to Adventure Church.

Judge Rosemary McGuire issued a tentative ruling this week to expunge a lis pendens notice — a notation on property documents noting an adverse event, such as a lawsuit. But McGuire held off a final ruling after hearing arguments from Sequoia Brewing Company at a Tuesday hearing.

McGuire initially ruled to lift the notice in March, but Sequoia Brewing Company’s owners appealed. The 5th District Court of Appeal, based in Fresno, sent the case back to Superior Court for more argument.

Sequoia Brewing’s attorney Kimberly Mayhew argued that the owners of the Tower Theatre weren’t dealing fairly with her client. Sequoia Brewing Company claims it has the first right to buy the building it leases from Tower Theatre, and maybe the entire property — which includes other restaurants in the same block.

“If the price was accurately set, we would want to buy our part of the parcel,” Sequoia Brewing owner Jeremy Smith said.

He also says his business has the funds to purchase the entire Tower Theatre property.

The price for the entire purchase mentioned in court was $4-5 million. The parcel that Smith leases was $1.3 million.

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email