Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Fulton 55: Recap of the community meeting


The community meeting on Wednesday night to talk about in-the-works music venue Fulton 55 was far less antagonistic than might have been expected if you read the back-and-forth here on The Beehive.

A group of about 60-70 people — neighbors, musicians, downtown supporters — gathered at Iron Bird Cafe as Fulton 55 general manager Tony Martin went over his plans for the venue, and eventually turned it over for questions. Since some neighboring business and churches have already expressed their disapproval for the up-to-500-capacity concert venue, it seemed this is where things might be explosive. But not really.

“When we open, it’s going to be all about working together,” Martin said.

Only Stephen Carlson, pastor of nearby Bethel Lutheran Church, spoke in opposition of the venue (video of his exchange with Martin below) — citing many of the reasons we’ve already heard, parking being foremost.

Most of the other questions were procedural things, asked by people from the music community: what kind of acts will be booked? what will booking fees be like? when will Fulton 55 open?

Ranae Johnson, who co-owns Wildrose Chapel & Funeral Home across the street from the venue, showed up to the meeting, but didn’t speak. She’s been one of the most critical neighbors thus far. After the meeting, she said her opinion hadn’t changed, but she was there more to listen than speak up.

When the meeting was over (it lasted about an hour), Martin said he was pleased with both the attendance and what was said by community members. He re-iterated that the people are neighbors and he wants work with them, not against them.


Here are a few more tidbits about Fulton 55 that people might find interesting:

  • Shows will generally be earlier than many local clubs– with doors opening around 6 p.m. and music starting by 8 p.m.. Hopes are to be done by 10:30 or 11 p.m.
  • Martin stood by his comment that got some people riled up in a previous Beehive post. He had said Fulton 55 would not book music that had a “history of bringing in a rough crowd.” But he clarified: “Hip-hop is gonna be cool, but it’s gotta be the right type of hip-hop.” He also said the venue would host a wide variety of entertainment.
  • One solution he offered to help parking, is installing a healthy number of bike racks, and encouraging people to bike to shows.
  • When asked about street-level noise, Martin said: “I guarantee that a car passing on Divisadero will make more noise than the venue.”
  • One comment from Martin that got good approval from the local band members in attendance: “You’re not going to pay to play.”
  • There was a petition out for Fulton 55 supporters to sign. Martin said he plans to make an online version as well. The next hurdle for Fulton 55 is a Dec. 1 planning commission meeting at 6 p.m. People — whether they supported or objected to the venue — were encouraged to attend that and voice their opinions. It’ll be held in the council chambers at City Hall.

Responses to "Fulton 55: Recap of the community meeting"

Heather says:

Can you clarify the parking issue? Is the church worried concert-goers will take up public spots the church-goers usually occupy? Or does the church have a private lot they’re worried will be taken over?

Because really, if it’s all public street parking, then the church has no say over who parks there. There’s no “we were here first” law that governs parking, right?

Mike Oz says:

They’re just worried there is not ample parking for the people who will come to concerts there — anywhere. Mainly, it sounds like the various opposers are worried about people clogging up the residential streets and parking in front of people’s houses.

Heather says:

I guess I just don’t see how the parking issue is the church’s business. Residents, yes. They have a right to be worried about people parking in front of their houses.

But if the church’s biggest problem is about alcohol being served (and maybe that’s just my own assumption), then they should stop cloaking it in secondary concerns about where everyone is going to park.

Also, it seems to me (via the video you posted — thanks for doing that for those of us who couldn’t be there) Stephen Carlson wasn’t there to listen as much as he was to present his own concerns. When the floor was opened for questions, he delivered a monologue, and did not once ask a question. That to me looks like someone who has his mind made up and isn’t willing to work with the other side to find solutions that make sense for both sides.

laura splotch says:

the meeting was informative and very well presented. the new venue will be a great asset to our music community…but the issue of “the right kind” of any type of music concerns me. i hope they don’t turn away too many national touring acts because they aren’t deemed “the right kind of music” for fulton 55. fresno has many musical influences…i hope fulton 55 will fill that niche of a mid-sized venue that is long over due!!!
about the parking…i wish the museum lot was open during that meeting! i had to park two blocks away just to attend!!!

Mike Oz says:

I know other churches — who either weren’t there last night or didn’t speak up — count alcohol as their No. 1 issue.

AM says:

So do these people at that Church and Funeral Home want keep the Vacant busness stats in the neighborhood like his has been for decades?

This is a music venue and not a bar? or is it a bar first like Freds is.

Do we need to protest and object to Stephen Carlson, pastor of nearby Bethel Lutheran Church &
Ranae Johnson Wildrose Chapel & Funeral Home for have such dull boring dead businesses in the neighborhood.

Famous says:

I was not at the meeting last night.

That said: I’m with Heather on not understanding the parking issue at all. How will the church (any of the other objectors) be affected by it, specifically? It seems to me the only one that will be hurt by parking (or lack of it) is the venue itself. As far as parking in residential neighborhoods, that’s an issue that can be mediated (by permitting/policing) later if it becomes a major nuisance, though that doesn’t seem like the church’s problem.

Now, if the problem is with alcohol being served a.) own up to it. b.) understand that there are bars (and liquor stores) in the area. This is not that. This is a music venue. c.) know that Tony is correct. A place that get too many police complaints will not be long in business.

Dale Stewart says:

Thanks for posting this with video!

Michael says:

Were you even at the meeting? You could have asked them yourself.

Kel says:

It amazes me about the issue of parking. Especially comments I’ve seen several places about having to park a -couple- of blocks away. A couple of blocks away is not far to have to park from a business or venue! Especially in a downtown type area or an area that isn’t set up with parking structures. Fresno isn’t exactly small, but try going in to a bigger city and see how far you have to walk to get to events! In many cities it’s a lot easier to just take public transportation somewhere because there is so little parking. – I’m pretty sad that parking has to be an issue at all and that public transportation just isn’t the way things are done here. But that’s a whole separate issue. – I’m all for the bicycle racks! Good job on that.

hippies in da hood says:

yes! dear sweet lord more bike racks

Conlan says:

If you ignore Fulton and Divisadero (two relatively “main” and busy streets), any street parking in front of residences would be just about as far from the venue as the dedicated parking lot. I.e., there’s no incentive for concert-goers to clog up the residential streets with parking. The nearest street with people living on it is Yosemite (the street I live on), which is as far away as the parking lot is. Given that the parking lot is secured and the sidewalk to the parking lot is better lit, safer, and the same distance, I don’t see many attendees opting to park on the residential streets.

Mike Oz says:

I think one of the issues that some people worry about is if there’s a big show attracting 500 people, that the lot at the African-American History Museum won’t be nearly enough.

blake says:

I live close to Kingsburg High School. Last night was the big Selma vs. Kingsburg game (a big deal in this area). Lots of strangers parked on my street and in front of my house. This happens a few times a year in spite of the high school having a big parking lot. Big deal. We get along fine.

Conlan says:

Sure, but I’m saying the residential streets are not convenient. People will park at the lot and on the main streets nearby before they park on the residential streets that are further away. I think ultimately it’s all hypothetical. If we continue to make decisions based on what “might” be the worst possible scenario, nothing will ever improve.

Famous says:


Conlan is the winner!

People want to get all preemptive on things that may or may not actually happen.

Paul Fountaine says:

The issue of parking is a non-starter. The idea behind the Fulton Specific Plan is to bring more, a LOT more, entertainment / traffic downtown. We WANT parking problems. It will signal that the region is on it’s way back to being a relevant part of the community.

I applaud the owners of Fulton55 and their GM Tony for stepping up, making an investment, and doing something overtly positive for downtown Fresno.

Debi says:

If parking is the only “real” issue, this should be a WIN for Fulton 55. Can’t imagine the city will turn this down just because people have concerns about what “might” be an issue.

If so, I would begin to have my doubts on whether the city is truly on board with improving downtown.

Good luck on Dec 1.

Dan says:

I’m glad the meeting went reasonably well.

Some comments about Bethel Lutheran. It’s located three-plus blocks away on North Broadway. The church does not provide nearly enough parking for its members (I’ve been to a wedding there years ago). However, Fulton 55 isn’t going to be up and running when the church is. So, this parking complaint seems to be spurious. In any event, parking at the curb by anyone is permissible, even on the residential streets nearby.

Personally, I agree with the folks who say most people will be parking on the main drags and the museum parking lot. The side streets are ill lit compared to Fulton and Divisadero–most people will park there.

Jass says:

If there’s one thing Fresno has too much of, it’s parking. That’s extra true downtown where half the land appears to be empty dirt lots.

The venue has a small lot for staff.

500, max attendance, means around 200 cars. People are more likely to go to a concert in one car with 4 people than to go alone, especially if they expect to pay to park.

Divisadero has street parking on both sides. Van Ness has street parking on both sides, Fulton, I believe, only on one.

North of the venue there is a large dirt lot, which could be used for parking. Both sides of Divisadero/Van Ness have large surface lots. The african american museum has a large lot. Im sure all the property owners will appreciate being able to charge $5 a car to park, versus the zero revenue they make now.

If for some reason folks decide they want to park far away in front of houses (why…?) it would be easy to simply zone it as residential parking only.

Fulton and Divisadero both now have bike lanes, as stated above. Taxi service is also a possibility.

Further, the venue will be active at night, when most downtown businesses are closed. There will be no competition for the huge amount of spaces.

If parking is the biggest objection, then the good news is the NIMBYs have no ground to stand on.

kiel says:

Downtown will be revitalized when it is hard to park. Getting hung up on parking and traffic will no doubt interfere with the revitalization process.

kiel says:

I second that!

IF Fresno’s downtown were as alive and vibrant as it should and could be; as alive and vibrant as any other downtown its size, the residents and area businesses would already be dealing with big city issues, such as parking. The problem with these “concerns” is that they are very small-minded concerns coming from a dead area. Downtown has been dead for so long, people have forgotten what a downtown is supposed to be, and what Fresno’s downtown once was. Innovators are FINALLY moving back into the downtown neighborhoods and people are concerned with parking?! AS IF our downtown is anything like San Fransisco!? When, oh when, will Fresno finally grow up and have a real downtown?! When will people allow Fresno to grow inward instead of outward? Or do we need more urban sprawl and a city center where no one wants to go? Any change involving more people going downtown is change for the better. It really should be embraced and welcomed with open arms.

katie says:

I drive by there every morning on my way to work. This morning I paid close attention due to reading about this on Wednesday. I notice several areas to park within a block or two. Catholic Charities has a big parking area next to it, there was also a big lot like a block east on Divisidero.
Secondly, If the concern is about drunk people hanging around and causing trouble, trust me, there are more drunk people at 9AM on a Monday morning in that area than there most likely would be on a friday night during a show.
And third, I read about the neighbors being concerned about the safety of people walking from/to cars in that area… I feel that is the patron’s responsibility. If they feel comfortable going to that area at night, that then made that choice. Any area in Fresno can be dangerous late at night. I assume that the club will hire secuirty like any other establishment…

JoyUnconfined says:

RE: parking issue

Could it be that the “parking” problem isn’t that there isn’t enough parking, but possibly more that local businesses and churches don’t want concert-goers parking in THEIR parking lots? Liability issues, insurance issues, etc… Could that be why they’re so up-in-arms about it? Of course, in every big city downtown I’ve ever been too, if you aren’t allowed to park there, there’s posts and chain to keep you out. And if you ARE allowed, signs are everywhere saying you park there at your own risk, the property owners aren’t responsible for ANYthing.

It really should be a non-issue all the way around. But the question is… what is the REAL root of neighbors’ stated “concern”, and how can that concern be assuaged?

If it’s just a case of “we fear change”… well, there’s nothing to be done about that, because change is inevitable, for good or ill. I’d suggest working with the new business owner who WANTS to make nice with the neighbors.

Steve says:

I wasn’t able to attend the meeting last Thursday, but I really appreciate Tony Martin. The GM of Fulton 55 even contacted me after reading the Beehive’s forum/discussion of late. I think he understood that the majority of us residents and business owners weren’t against the Fulton 55 itself, but we did want to have common concerns addressed– which, for the most part, he did answer, or tried to do respectfully without turning the event into a shouting debate. Much respect for Mr. Martin.

A reminder: One new concert venue does not make a downtown suddenly turn “vibrant”. True, it is a PART, but not the only solution. It’s a process that will take years for our city, dozens of brave businesses and THOUSANDS of community-minded residents who are willing to dig in and go for the long haul.

A few more things: Opposition to the club doesn’t negate the time and money that has already been invested by the city of Fresno (and the downtown neighborhoods residents, business owners!) and the groundswell of revitalization that’s already in motion.

Remember, Fresno is restructuring its entire planning model from square one, it’s going to take time for all the ridiculous planning schemes and codes that ruled downtown to be eliminated, overcome and reestablished. Downtown community-building will take some time and patience as well.