Fresno's Fulton Mall merchants face eviction

FRESNO, Calif.

Mike Huerta's photography shop inside Fresno's Discount Mall has captured timeless memories for years but that may soon change. "We've paid rent in the hard times, we've paid rent in the good times but now the times are getting better again. Now they're evicting us and I don't think that's fair," said Huerta.

Last week, the city of Fresno issued an eviction notice to Huerta and 17 other tenants inside the half of the building the city owns. "We have 30 days to find a building, move our stuff and tell our customers where we're at and in that time we're going to lose a lot of business," said Huerta.

The businesses face possible eviction if the property manager does not adhere to a number of safety repairs that total more than 4.5 million dollars. "They need to come back with a plan on how they're going to address the public health and safety issues and then we'll have further conversation about how they address all the other violations," said Bruce Rudd, Fresno's assistant city manager.

On Monday morning, Property-Based Business Improvement District of Downtown Fresno met with the small-business owners to help relocate them. "We want to assist in relocating these business owners to another space in downtown. We want to make sure that they can keep their customers," said Kate Borders with PBID Partners of Downtown.

But some tenants don't think that help goes far enough. "Finding a location isn't really a problem for us, just having the capital to do it all over again is kind of where I'm stuck right now," said business owner Ronnie Rizzo. Rizzo invested around $20,000 in upgrade kitchen costs when he moved his restaurant into the prime location near Chukchansi Park.

"My business is different than other merchants because we have to find another location that is a restaurant and has an established kitchen," said Rizzo.

The city said it's up to the master tenant now to fork out the repair costs or its businesses will be no more. "The public should not be expected to subsidize private business and in this case it's exactly what's happening," said Rudd.

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