Kindness, Not Jail. Empathy, Not Fines.

by Lisa Talley |

“Humanize them.” Carrying over the noise of Fresno City Council’s recent passing of the camping-ban ordinance, this mantra has quickly become the unifying voice against the city’s decision to, for lack of a better word, criminalize the homeless.

On August 17, 2017, in a 4-1 vote, the City Council declared tents, lean-tos, and general camping on public or private property within Fresno City limits illegal. Those caught in violation will have the option to be escorted to MAP Point – Multi-Agency Access Program based at the Poverello House – for housing, health, rehabilitation, etc. otherwise that individual faces jail time of up to 6 months or receives a $1,000 fine. The ordinance went into effect on September 30, 2017.

On the surface, the ordinance appears to be that built from good intentions, urging those on the street to seek help as an alternative to being charged with the misdemeanor crime. It also heavily implies that there are large numbers of homeless individuals who either aren’t aware of these services or refuse to utilize them, that they prefer life on the streets and make a choice to remain homeless. This ordinance has been described as a method of “tough love” by Don Eskes, CEO of the Fresno Rescue Mission, and the ordinance’s initial sponsor, Councilman Steve Brandau. However, despite its facile good intentions, the law and its proponents lack depth and foresight.

“There are people out there, who have had a [housing voucher] for 3 months, still sleeping on the streets or in the park, waiting for a home,” says Desiree Martinez – Founder of the non-profit organization, We Are Not Invisible Foundation dba Homeless In Fresno – in response to the ordinance. Martinez’s sentiments echo that of other organizations who are also struggling with a lack of resources. The homeless population outnumbers that of available beds in local shelters.

In the August 17 City Council meeting, numerous Fresno residents called to question the efficiency of the ordinance. Fresno Madera Continuum of Care Vice Chair, Jody Ketcheside, stated, “There are some misconceptions about available shelters in our community. We do have one large shelter that people can stay in for up to 30 days. Once they’ve timed out at 30 days, they cannot return for another year. Our MAP Point clients that are currently on the list for housing, once they’ve stayed in the shelter for 30 days, they have to go back to the streets.”

It begs an earnest question that supporters of the ordinance need to consider. What are the homeless supposed to do if they’ve gone through the services, assigned to a caseworker, have a housing voucher in hand – and they are currently in limbo as they wait for a home to become available – but no shelter has space for them? What are they to do then, where are they supposed to go, if not the streets? And it’s a question that no member of City Council or City Officials has yet to provide an answer.

“When people say ‘you’re homeless because you want to be’ that sends rage through them. No one truly wants to be homeless. The addicts, the alcoholics, even they want to be inside of a house hiding as they do drugs or drink. They don’t want to be out in public letting everyone know their business,” shares Martinez of the continuing misunderstanding that homelessness is, for some, a choice.

“The ordinance is [going to harm] a lot more people. There’s going to be a lot more victims, there are a lot of rapes that go down out there,” Martinez’s voice grows soft as she continues at this point. “There are a lot of women out here, and they’re the ones saying ‘if you take away my tent I will be breaking in [somewhere], I’m not going to [be without] any protection over me all night long.”

Living on the streets is not part of a counter-culture movement or a vacation from responsibility; the streets are a dangerous place. Tents and impromptu shelters provide protection, however minimal it may seem, from not only the elements but also from people. According to Martinez, accounts of assault are common as victims fight off assailants who will attack at the sound of a tent zipper coming undone. The level of attacks is also the reason why so many dogs live amongst the homeless.

But it’s not just attacks from others within the homeless community that they have to worry about; it’s also the attacks from those on the outside.

“They’ve had rocks thrown at them, tire irons, and even cinder blocks – kids were driving by throwing cinder blocks onto tents – and the tents have, at times, protected them,” says Martinez.

Desiree Martinez holds her ground at the Sept 29 protest of the anti-camping ordinance held at Fresno City Hall – photo credit: Richard D Iyall

The unsheltered population is a marginalized group where a significant disparity persists in the understanding between those living on the street and everyone else. Many believe that the path to truly solving the issue of homelessness begins with compassion, empathy, and acknowledgment, not with criminalization.

Desiree Martinez started Homeless in Fresno for the sole purpose of bridging the gap of communication between the fortunate and less fortunate. The focus centered around a media project that documented life in the streets of Fresno through the photography and video medium. However, it was not through the lens of a camera that sparked her passion in advocating for the homeless, but the fact that she knows, first-hand, what it’s like to be homeless.

“I know what it’s like to be hungry. I know what it feels like to be homeless. I know what it feels like to see people react when they find out you’re homeless,” she shares. “And it’s always one of 2 reactions, overwhelming pity or blame, ‘you chose it, you deserve to be homeless.”

At the mere mention of the word ‘homeless,’ a gap seems to manifest and widen with every passing moment between the sheltered and unsheltered. Recall, if you can, the last time you encountered a homeless person, did you talk to them? Did you say hello? Or did you walk past them without a glance?

“People don’t know that their words and expressions are like daggers. They notice when you walk by without looking at them and ignoring them,” she continues.

Through her organization, Martinez focuses on the needs and issues of the street homeless. Down in the trenches, she works face to face with the less fortunate, often without any breaks or days off, implementing any number of her six projects at one time. At its core, Martinez built these projects around the immediate needs of the community, but they also provide an opportunity for volunteers to work in close collaboration and more personally with the street homeless.


Project H2O

April to September

At the inception of her media project, Martinez began observing that there was a severe lack of available water and access to water. “[There was a] lack of fountains, lack of restaurants and businesses willing to give out water. Everyone was dying of thirst so I started Project H2O]” she states.

It’s a simple necessity that often goes unnoticed. Aside from needing the water to drink, it’s also used for bathing, washing clothes, cooking, and also to keep their animals hydrated.

During the hottest months of the year, when temperatures reach 110 degrees, water is crucial. Without access to cooling centers or an air-conditioned building, those living on the streets are at an increased risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Martinez adapted the project to hand out frozen water bottles because of this.

Water is needed all year round, but larger quantities are also necessary during the project’s current months (April – September). Volunteers are also needed to help freeze the bottles and disperse them out to the community.

Hoodies for the Homies

September to February

“I came up with Hoodies for the Homies because last year I did a coat drive and I got hundreds and hundreds of coats… I had been blessed by the community so much. But I came to find out that we were receiving a lot of parkas, wool blazers… just really expensive jacket wear,” says Martinez.

The most pressing issue surrounding these types of donations were regarding the durability of the coat through the rainy weather. As it rains, the coats become wet, and as the homeless do not have access to laundry mats to dry their clothes, they stay wet. Often, if a person attempts to hang their clothes to dry, they’re taken down by the police, and over time, the wet clothes will begin to smell, and the homeless have no choice but to throw them away. Martinez was plowing right through the donations which caused her to seek out a better method.

Hooded sweatshirts became the answer due to their flexibility and comfort. Martinez took it a step further and decided to include a poncho with every hoodie to help keep it dry.

Donations of ponchos are always welcome, but Martinez wants people to bear in mind that the ponchos from places like the Dollar Tree only last through a single rain.

Project Share the Warmth

October to April

Centering around everything warm, the object of this project includes giving out soups, hot cocoa, hot coffee, hot tea, scarves, mittens, hats, blankets, hand warmers, socks, etc.

“I can’t have enough socks. They go through socks every single day because of the rain. [Socks are] also multipurpose, they’ll string them together and make scarves, cut holes in them and make gloves, or turn them into a sweater for their Chihuahua,” says Martinez.

Donations that help keep the homeless warm and dry are welcome. Wool blankets are encouraged as they are more water repellent than most blankets.

Martinez also spends this time speaking at elementary schools and Fresno City College to raise awareness by educating the public about hypothermia and ways to keep warm

Potluck in the Park

Every Month on the 3rd Saturday

This project allows members of the community to interact with and get to know some homeless individuals. It invites anyone and everyone to bring a dish, sponsor meals or to volunteer on the serving line. However, this potluck has specific restrictions for the person or business who decides to participate.

Each volunteer is required to not only prepare the food they’re donating but also to package and serve it themselves. As this is a community event that gives access for the homeless to a warm, home-cooked style meal with more substantial nutrition, but it’s also a learning experience that teaches people how to communicate with the less fortunate.

“We talk to strangers, hold open doors for people we’ve never met, but we’re afraid to talk to someone who’s poor? I’ll have six people on the serving table, and I tell them to make sure they ask everyone their name and how their day’s been going. When they take a break to eat, they are to sit down and eat next to a homeless individual and get to know them,” explains Martinez.

Businesses who have participated in the past include Deli Delicious, Smokin’ Burrito food truck, and WTF food truck.

Hygiene Project

All Year Round

“I’ve been thinking of calling it Project Dignity,” shares Martinez.

Hygiene kits include toothpaste, deodorant, toilet paper, cotton swabs, feminine products, and other items useable without access to water such as wet wipes and dry shampoo. It’s important to remember that water, even if accessible, is extremely limited.

The project also raises awareness of not only what to give but what not to give. Mouthwash and hand sanitizer contain alcohol; the alcoholics will drink it and become sick.

Earplugs are also included in the kits to address a much more alarming issue.

“They sleep on the ground and the amount of bugs that out in the winter time… We have a lot of people out there who are pulling roaches and bugs out of their ears,” explains Martinez.

Project Street Clean

All Year Round

This unique project puts the homeless to work in exchange for food. More specifically, Martinez hands out trash bags to homeless volunteers and instructs them to pick up the trash in parks and community areas. Once the bags are full, they turn them into Martinez who hands back a meal.

“I’ve been doing this for almost two years, helping them, but I needed to start holding them accountable. So I started showing up saying ‘no one’s getting any free food anymore, you’re going to have to work for it,’” Martinez says.

It’s an effort to prove to the rest of the community that there are those who are willing to work and not everyone who is homeless deserves the label of criminal, dirty, or mentally ill.

Parks and Recreation at Roeding Park have begun working with Martinez by disposing of the collected trash.

Get Involved

Desiree Martinez has found her calling in dedicating her life’s work to helping the street homeless, working nearly 365 days a year directly with the community. And even though many of us are unable to give of ourselves, in the same way, we can still be part of the solution in small but meaningful doses.

Homeless in Fresno is a staff of one as Martinez is the organization’s only full-time staff member, so it goes without saying that volunteers are not only welcome but encouraged. Donations in the form of supplies or monetary are also a big help.

Many other local organizations are in the same boat as Martinez, as they struggle to keep up with the needs of the homeless community. Find a shelter or group near you that aligns with your available contribution levels.

And no matter your situation, there is one thing that we can all give that costs absolutely nothing: compassion.

The homeless issue is a complex one filled with many factors. There are some who suffer from mental illness and lack access to treatment, others who are afflicted with addiction and alcoholism, and plenty of those who only fell on hard times without a support system to catch them. If we, as a community, hope ever to resolve this problem we must begin with kindness, remembering that these individuals are brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers. They are people, our people.

For more information about Homeless in Fresno, its projects and how to volunteer or donate, visit

Hurricane Relief

Know your charities.

by Lisa Talley |

Natural disasters elicit a mix of complex emotions: horror, empathy, shock, and a deep-seated need to do something. For many of us, the options are few as we’re either unable to or unqualified to volunteer in a disaster area. Charities become the best opportunity to lend a helping hand through the means of monetary donations. However, choosing which one to donate to can feel like a daunting task. Here are some tips to help you decide on an organization.

Research your group – Take some time to read up on the organization’s history of rescue efforts. is an excellent resource for studying groups that accept donations, looking closely at how efficient that team is in using those donations directly towards the programs the donors support. is also a great reference site for those looking to make donations.

Local or National – Part of your research should include if that group is local to the area of the disaster. Do they have experience in that city or neighborhood? Do they employ locals or work with local organizations? Knowing their experience could help not only determine how efficiently they spend their funds, but also how efficient their rescue efforts are.

Think Twice – before sending items like clothing or blankets. These types of donations take up space and divert resources to sorting, storing or cleaning these things instead of focusing on relief efforts. Making monetary donations allow the organizations to make sure they have what they need when they need it.

Below is a list of organizations currently running disaster relief programs in Florida, Texas, and the Virgin Islands for communities affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

All Hands – a volunteer-based non-profit organization that addresses the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters. All Hands has an active response program for both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey. (A+ rating from

Global Giving – largest global crowdfunding organization that disperses funds to locally-driven and vetted organizations within communities that are in need. Global Giving hosts numerous projects for crowdfunding all over the world and including disaster relief for Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and Mexico Earthquake.

Foundation Beyond Belief – Humanist charity that promotes secular volunteering and responsible charitable giving. Founded in 2009, Foundation Beyond Belief has funds set up for both Hurricane Irma and Harvey recovery.

Hand in Hand Hurricane Relief Fund – a benefit organized by Comic Relief, a non-profit public charity. Initially promoted as a telethon with a long list of celebrity appearances and performances, the fund is still accepting donations online via a purchase of Hand in Hand merchandise and direct donations. (Comic Relief has an A+ rating from

Team Rubicon – a volunteer-driven non-profit organization that unites the skills and experiences of veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams across the country. Currently deployed in Texas and Florida. (A- rating from

Operation Supply Drop – Primarily focused on delivering “Video Game Care Packages Downrange” to deployed troops overseas, the veteran based non-profit organization is fundraising to send their volunteers to Texas.

Greater Houston Community Fund – A broad-based relief fund established by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Houston Humane Society – among other local animal shelters (Houston SPCA, San Antonio Humane Society) the Humane Society is taking donations in the effort to supply care and shelter for pets in the area affected by Hurricane Harvey:

The Miami Foundation – the non-profit has put together The Hurricane Relief Fund to support recovery and rebuilding work driven by organizations on the ground, Irma Caribbean Strong Relief Fund to support relief efforts in small Caribbean island nations and territories, Irma Community Recovery Fund to support relief efforts in marginalized communities, ensuring residents in poverty have access to critical services and resources.

Greater Miami Jewish Federation – The Federation is accepting donations and notes that 100 percent of all contributions will be used to help Hurricane Irma victims.

Catholic Charities – The Archdiocese of Miami is taking financial donations through its Catholic Charities to assist victims in the Florida Keys, Caribbean, and the Virgin Islands. One hundred percent of the donations will go toward Hurricane Irma relief efforts.

United Way of Miami-Dade – the non-profit organization is collecting donations through Operation Helping Hands, which works with a network of nonprofits across the country, to support relief efforts for both Hurricane Irma and Harvey.

Food for the Poor – is one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the U.S. The non-profit is accepting donations to support rushing emergency supplies to Caribbean Islands destroyed by Hurricane Irma.

Bridge to Hope – provides services and programs designed to bridge the gap left by public assistance programs, to raise the quality of life and standard of living for South Florida’s vulnerable communities affected by Hurricane Irma i.e. elderly, chronically ill, homeless and low-income households. To donate visit

Early Learning Children’s Foundation – is committed to helping child care providers receive recovery resources so they can get back on their feet as soon as possible in the wake of widespread damage caused by Hurricane Irma.

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash


Open Streets Event October 1st

by Edna Pedroza |  Graphic Designer |

The Fresno County Bicycle Coalition is hosting CenCalVia Open Streets Event Sunday, October 1st. So, what is a CenCalVia Open Streets Event? Well, the concept of this movement started in Bogota Columbia in the 1970’s as Ciclovia (Spanish term for a cycleway, a permanent bike path or area closed off to automobiles). It was a way to bring a community together by getting folks out to play in a space closed off to vehicles so that cyclists, runners, skaters, and pedestrians could feel safe to be active and have fun in an otherwise hazardous area. Since that movement in Bogota, the open streets concept has been an event held all over the world, and many cities in the U.S. host these every year. Los Angeles hosts CicLAvia; San Francisco has Sunday Streets, San Jose with their ‘CalleSJ’ and your very own Fresno has CenCalVia.

Last year over 1,000 Fresno residents participated in the first-ever CenCalVia Open Streets Event. A one-mile stretch of road on Ventura Avenue, between First and Cedar Streets, was closed off to automobiles and it was where the community came together to bike, walk, dance and skate in a 4-hour pop-up park, open streets style event. This year FCBC is back to bring you this free, family-friendly and rad experience. You don’t want to miss out on this year’s CenCalVia. Save the date and come out Sunday, October 1st where Ventura Avenue will again be closed off to automobiles between First and Cedar Streets between 11a and 3p. For more information go to or find the event on Facebook at Cencalvia Fresno.

Why CenCalVia is rad for Fresno:

Environmental ImpactCenCalvia supports environmental sustainability by encouraging residents to leave their vehicles behind and ride their bicycles, walk, or take a bus. CenCalVia also provides interactive information promoting environmental awareness about the “Heat Island Impact” and what they can do to improve the air quality in the San Joaquin Valley.

Economic Development – CenCalVia promotes economic development by bringing residents to commercial district areas. Whether in small towns or big cities, Open Streets events get residents out to have some fun and take notice of businesses that they did not previously patronize.

Public Health – CenCalVia will advance public health by promoting physical activity, addressing obesity and reducing health problems associated with the lack of exercise.  Open Streets events encourage families to “unplug” and enjoy physical activity and healthy eating together.  FCBC partnered with organizations like Oooobi Fresno, and Cultiva La Salud to promote nutrition and access to fresh, local produce that is convenient and affordable.

Social Justice – CenCalVia promotes social equity by implementing the event in a socioeconomically challenged neighborhood of Fresno and bringing people together from diverse socioeconomic, ethnic, and demographic areas.

Visit for more info.

Heart of Downtown

by Lisa Talley |

A steady ‘click-clack’ of heels chirp across the 3rd floor of the Pacific Southwest Building as Sandra Chaires charges into the umpteenth hour of her shift. Her phone is buzzing with phone calls, emails, texts, social media alerts, and timers, but a member of the Workspace floor has a question. Chaires, with remarkable warmth and patience, stops mid-stride to address one of the many conundrums that occur throughout a typical day.

“I think my primary job overall is to make people happy,” Chaires says in all honesty. A hair second later, she also laughs in response to her statement, as if to feel the weight of that expectation and reflect on her own sanity in shouldering such a large responsibility.

Located in Downtown Fresno, the Pacific Southwest Building is 16 floors with four live venues: The Banker’s Ballroom, The Vault, Workspace, and The Lofts; complete with revolving events, numerous members and tenants complete with changing and ongoing needs, all while the entire building receives various degrees of reconstruction. Sandra is at the center of it all.

Sandra Chaires – Director Pacific Southwest Building

Like a network gateway, Chaires is the hub through which information passes and multiple tasks funneled. Each venue with every available phone number and email are routed directly to Sandra.

“I handle the lofts, anything to do with the tenants [along with] PR, marketing, showings, new contracts… Same goes for Workspace. The Ballroom and The Vault, I coordinate events, PR, marketing, scheduling… And I make sure all of them are tidy…” Chaires pauses, looking for a different word to accurately describe this thought, and with a smirk she finds it. “I make sure everything is ‘pretty.’”

It’s a lighthearted way to depict how the Pacific Southwest Building always seems to feel so inviting. Aside from the usual comforts of an always stocked bathroom, clean floors, and spotless windows, it’s a fresh pot of coffee every few hours on the Workspace floor. It’s hints of vanilla nestled in the confines of the elevators and hallways, and the knack for always remembering everyone’s name.

“We’re a business, and we can’t run a business without making sure everyone who comes to the building has a good experience,” says Chaires.

Although the grace of well-placed hospitality is a great way to ensure that a guest does have a good experience, the building handles some of that work by itself. Built in 1925, the Pacific Southwest Building has a charm that’s difficult to ignore. Original Cherrywood doors, the intricate art deco high-rise ceiling of the ballroom, open concept designs with exposed walls and ceilings on the redeveloped floors, and of course, the view.

Those who exhibit even the slightest fear of heights leave their dread behind and welcome the only thing left to take its place, awe. The tall, broad windows hold the city close to the viewer, seemingly close enough to touch. There’s something about engulfing so much of downtown at one time – bustling, growing, changing – that it makes the landscape feel all the more intimate. It instills a notion that there is a heart, not just in this city, but within the entire valley.

The impact of that view and the first impression it made is half of what sold Sandra Chaires into taking on her complex role some 2 ½ years ago. The other responsible half was the vision the Katchadourian brothers have for the building.

“I immediately fell in love with the view, and I was in love with the building. But not only that but [Sevak] talked about what the building could be and their plan for the future… [the brothers] believe in the potential and believe that we [the building] can be restored to our original glory,” shares Sandra.

Purchased in 2011 Serko and Sevak Katchadourian did a core evaluation of the building and decided it was going to be a mixed space – not just endless floors of offices – that would allow people to live, work, and play in the Pacific Southwest Building. The plan is to develop this over the course of 3 phases.

Phase 1 is available now and near completion with The Banker’s Ballroom, The Vault, and the newly incorporated Workspace. Each venue exists on their own floors with The Banker’s Ballroom on the first floor for events ranging from weddings and Quinceaneras to fundraisers and costume parties. Beneath the ballroom is, as Chaires puts it, the underused venue: The Vault. Smaller than the ballroom, The Vault is a more informal setting with a bar, pool table, foosball table, a small stage for a DJ or live band, and a mini-movie theater.

Formerly the Security Bank building, the Pacific Southwest Building has kept some things from its former life, like the giant bank vault. However, aside from the classic vault door, not much remains the same. Large, reclining leather seats fill most of the room facing a large flat screen TV. Speakers mounted on the surface of the walls, completing the theater. The Vault, too, is used for a variety of events from birthday parties and general events, to small weddings and receptions.

Workspace is the newest addition to the building that required an entire overhaul to the 3rd floor. In a nut shell, it’s a shared office environment where entrepreneurs, freelancers, and small businesses can incubate without the hefty fees that often accompany individual commercial spaces. Those who utilize the floor for a small fee are referred to as ‘members,’ and members have access to things they normally wouldn’t if they were on their own. For starters, an office located in the Pacific Southwest Building, 24/7 finger-print access, and security cameras. But the real gem of Workspace is in the aesthetics. Wide open windows provide natural light, adjustable standing desks for healthier working situations, and décor handpicked for encouraging professionalism, productivity, and creativity. It’s also where you’ll find Sandra on most days, ready to tackle your questions.

Phase 2 of the building includes adding more lofts to the upper floors. Installed by Sandra King, the former owner of the building, the Katchadourian brothers plan to expand on her idea and dedicate more space for tenants. There are also plans to incorporate a café into the 2nd floor next to the Loft Salon.

Phase 3… well, that’s up to the people. Chaires elaborates by stating, “Yes, we are one building, but we’re mainly real estate. The goal is not to bring in our own businesses. We do have the Banker’s Ballroom, The Vault, The Lofts, and Workspace but that’s it. The vision is to make the building open to the public, where other people can come in and realize their own dream; be it a bar, restaurant, or other business.”

Also, according to Chaires, the Katchadourian brothers are one of very few investors in Fresno who is doing their investing 100% on their own dime. Reconstruction, development, it’s all taking place out of pocket without the assistance of grants or funds from the city or state. Sevak and Serko have enormous faith in Fresno, the kind usually only found in Fresnans, not bad for a couple of Angelinos. (that’s LA residents for you layman’s folk)

But the entire journey of the building and its successes aren’t owed to the Katchadourians alone. Chaires is the first to admit that the whole of the Pacific Southwest Building team plays a vital role in providing the momentum to furthering the forward progression of the building.

“We have a new guy, Victor, who just started maintenance. Sometimes, he gets frustrated saying ‘I’m just cleaning toilets all day.’ And I say ‘Victor; your job is just as important as mine.’ And I feel that way about all of us that run the Pacific Southwest Building.’ We couldn’t do our jobs without [each other],” she shares.

Without Michael Barry and Victor Marquez handling maintenance, Assistant Director – Madeline Loya, Building Manager – Charles Atikian, Construction Manager – Ray Quintero, the Construction Crew – Jason Shaffer, Ruben Delgado, and David Tucker, and the Event Staff – Renee Ballin and Kristopher Havlik, and the Director, Sandra Chaires, the Pacific Southwest Building would not have the same shot it does today in realizing its potential.

Even so, there’s still a long road ahead. The building is in a state of evolution, as it finds its new purpose in the center of downtown Fresno. The team is still learning how this is all going to work and where the building will fit with all the revitalization happening in downtown. They’ll need more foot traffic from the public to fully understand how to shape themselves. Anticipation is high for the Fulton Street Grand Opening on October 21st, where the building, of course, will be hosting 2 VIP parties.

“Craig Scharton of the Downtown Fresno Partnership once said that the Pacific Southwest Building is the heart of downtown. When the [Fulton] street opens, we’re going to start beating, and there won’t be any stopping us.”

Follow the Pacific Southwest Building on social media for upcoming events. For more information, visit

Facebook: @pacificsouthwestbuilding – Banker’s Ballroom: @bankersballroom – The Vault: @thevaultfresno – Workspace: @workspacefresno

Bike Life: Cycling & Menstruation… Who Cares?

by Edna Pedroza | Graphic Designer |

Menstruation. Why is this such a taboo subject? Let’s face it, all women go through it, and they have been going through it since the beginning of time. It helps to ensure that the human race has a future, so why does menstruation have to be such an awkward conversation?

Let’s start with our young girls as an example (as relayed to me by my 13-year-old niece). Teenagers spend most of their days in a classroom and are required to ask for permission to use the restroom. Imagine what this means for a girl when a teacher says ‘no’ even after being told it’s a ‘Code Red’ situation. Her face flushed, her anxiety building, the ‘Crimson Tide’ rushing in as she eyes the exit – her only hope of saving herself from eternal embarrassment – blocked. What then? I don’t have children, so it’s hard for me to picture what parents do in these situations, but I would like to think I would tell my would-be daughter to “leave and take care of yourself anyway.” Being young is awkward enough, but throw in society’s dismissal of menstruation, and things get exponentially more awkward. In fact, being told ‘no’ after revealing something so intimate about yourself can be quite a blow. It’s enough to make a girl feel isolated, embarrassed, and for some, like a freak.

No woman should feel this way, young or old. Half the population endures the indomitable ‘Aunt Flo’ every month; it would be nice if we didn’t collectively treat it like some skeleton in the proverbial family closet. Women should feel more comfortable in taking care of themselves when they need to, without any feelings of shame or alienation. And it starts with talking about it without flinching, no matter where we are when it comes up.

Now, I’m not saying that we have to forget the graceful ‘time and place’ mantra. I mean, you wouldn’t start shouting about being on your rag and how you’re dealing with it in the middle of a graduate school thesis presentation, right? There just shouldn’t be any surprises if the topic comes up in conversation. It isn’t ‘gross’, ‘tactless’, or ‘irrelevant’. It’s nature at work, and it deserves emotional intelligence and respect.

So, in my quest to further the dialog of menstruation, I’ve tied the topic into cycling. (any chance I get bicycling on the radar is a win) I asked a couple of questions to a handful of people in my circle: what do you do to prepare for riding during your period? And, do you think the conversation of menstruation and bicycling is an important one to have? Why or why not? The following are the responses to those questions and some interesting historical feminine care facts.

Stacy Garr | Layton UT

Hmm, it’s been a while since I’ve had to think about that… While on my period, I would have had to make sure my ride was short enough to not need a bathroom break or at least bring the proper supplies and think about where I might find a restroom on my route. I do think the topic merits

a conversation as it impacts about 50% of the population, and anything that could make it more convenient to deal with would be awesome.

Layla Mohn | Fresno

To prepare, all I do is use the necessities (use a pad) and make sure to stay super hydrated before and during. I also believe that it’s good to get a good, energizing meal in beforehand. With the second question, I think there is a lot of people who think women can’t ride bicycles while on their period.

I believe that it should be empowering and shouldn’t be an excuse not to ride. I think it’s [an] important [conversation] to have with people who do not understand, but [those are] people who make too big of a deal about it.

Jezebelle Lopez | Fresno

Lol. I’m on birth control, so I don’t get my period. I was never biking while on it.

And I don’t think it should be an important topic to discuss. It’s like any other sport, you take care of the problem. I don’t think that people should actively try to talk about it. I don’t know. I’ve never really thought of it but hearing other people’s opinions could change mine.

Wendy W. Remley | Syracuse UT

If I’m going to be going for a bicycle ride while menstruating, I make sure that I wear dark colored shorts (easy because my cycling shorts are black).

But, I use a menstrual cup, so that simplifies a lot of the practical stuff. I would bring some wipes just in case I needed to empty the cup while on the ride.

Edna: Nice. I just heard of the Diva Cup – I hear it’s messy when changing.

Not really, no. I used the Diva for a while, but then switched to the Lily Compact. It doesn’t hold as much, but it’s more comfortable and folds up small. It’s not significantly more messy than an OB tampon.

Edna: I’ll have to try it.

Dusty Smith | Portland OR

If I’m on my period and going to cycle, I make sure to have panty liners in addition to tampons because they make me feel more protected. I keep Always Wet Wipes on hand to ensure complete cleanliness. If it’s a long ride I’ll check for stops at appropriate intervals. Funny story… I got super OCD about the subject as a teen because I wasn’t prepared for the added flow from activity and was also wearing white one day for a 20 mile ride. Needless to say, I learned young. Not every woman is as lucky (or unfortunate depending on the viewpoint) as I was to learn early.

Our bodies react to activity. You get your heart rate up while menstruating and you’re likely to have a mess you’re not prepared to deal with. On top of that, when cycling… there’s not really a worse feeling than being squishy with blood and still having to peddle another mile!

Felicia Rocha | Fresno

Ok cool, yea, I think it’s important. Especially for women who wear pads, I could see comfort being an issue as well as protection/leakage. Imagine heavy bleeding while on a long bike wearing a pad. I’m sure that would be present a few challenges.

I personally have never had to do anything specific to prepare to ride while on my period. I wear tampons and my periods are pretty short, not really heavy and only like two days so it’s never really been an issue for me personally.

Sarah Ruedas | Madera

I don’t ride. [But] yes, it’s important [to talk about]. Women should be informed of the options they have as far as meds to take for pain or discomfort, even taking into consideration PMS. Also, the options of feminine hygiene products to use while cycling.

Starr Christensen | Salt Lake City UT

I prepare by loading up on sanitary supplies. And wearing underwear that don’t dig (granny panties or boy short type) but that are still suitable for riding (usually I wear things that don’t get in the way but thongs don’t work on my period, so I have to find a middle ground somewhere) Sometimes, I’ll even go so far as to not use tampons the day or hours before a ride, just pads, because it seems to allow my menstrual cycle to discharge more… so that I won’t bleed quite so much on the ride.

I’ve never considered any conversation about menstruating and cycling. But I guess that may be because I view menstrual cycle downfalls and extra prep as necessary evils (for any sport or physical activity) I wish that weren’t the case.

Art. Science. Craft Beer.

411 Broadway Ales & Spirits talk Sour Beers, Brewing, and the Grand Opening.

by Lisa Talley

It’s hot. I mean slow-roasting-inside-an-oven-while-wearing-a-fur-coat hot. And to top it off, the humidity is packing a punch so heavy it’s hard enough to knock Mayweather onto the canvas. One of two roll-up doors is halfway open and the only breeze drifting through the place is the muggy breath escaping my nostrils. And as I stand, positively melting like the Wicked Witch of the West, I realize that in spite of it all, I’m smiling. The building of 411 Broadway is ripe with excitement.

Two massive Letina tanks flank the far wall, patio tables – waiting to be assembled – stack next to the tanks, and vintage wooden barrels huddle in the middle of the room. Sure, it’s bare-bones now, but come October 27th it’s going to be a full-fledged microbrewery and a longtime dream-come-true for Co-Founder, Joseph Soleno.

“I’ve been home brewing since I was a teenager. I got my foot in the door with a local brew pub scrubbing floors, cleaning filters, cleaning the tanks and learning the tricks of the trade,” shares Soleno.

The enthusiasm radiates through his smile. In fact, there may not have been single a moment Soleno didn’t grin ear-to-ear while talking about his new venture.  Even more, once I get him talking about the process of brewing he about loses me in the dust of palpable anticipation.

“We’re going to focus mainly on sour beers. A lot of that comes from bacteria naturally found in oak and micro-flora in the air so we’ll be using oak vessels for fermentation,” says Soleno.

If you had to reread that last paragraph, don’t worry, I’ll help fill in the blanks. Sour beers are a category of brews that express a sour or tart flavor. The brewing process for these types of beers typically uses some of the oldest methods in existence. Modern brewing techniques of today use sterile environments to reduce the risk of unwanted yeast strains. It’s important to most brewers to control every stage of the brewing process, but for Soleno, this is where he wants some variation. Sour beers achieve their unique flavors by allowing wild yeast to develop into the brew, and this is accomplished by utilizing open fermentation methods.

Soleno further explains, “The difference between a sour beer and a regular beer people are used to these days is that a regular beer uses a yeast strain called Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. You can actually get different varieties of this [to] produce different flavors but if you look at it under a microscope, it’s the same type of yeast. What we’ll be using is like a symbiotic type relationship between yeast and bacteria. We’ll be using the typical strain that regular breweries use but we’ll also be using different bacteria like Pediococcus, Lactobacillus, and a wild yeast strain called Brettanomyces. If you can balance all of these bacterias just right, you can come up with some really tasty beers.”

The two Letina tanks sitting in 411 Broadway Ales & Spirits are actually open top fermenter tanks. The floating lids allow the air to penetrate the brew so that micro-oxygenation can occur.

Letting go of some of the control in the brewing process is what makes open fermentation both exhilarating and unpredictable. Some brewers find the unpredictability risky and traditionally opt for a more predictable outcome. Joseph Soleno isn’t intimidated, on the contrary, he’s been working long and hard for this opportunity.

“As soon as I turned 21, I enrolled at UC Davis for their fermentation science program; I learned most of the art there. Afterward, I was picked up by Rogue Ales & Spirits in Oregon where I learned a lot about large-scale brewing. And then I did a stint at Dust Bowl, then went to Sequoia and now, Riley’s [Brewing Co],” he continued.

Soleno also has the support of his family who has taken up business with him in 411 Broadway Ales & Spirits. Daniel Soleno, Joseph’s father, will be taking on domestic and international sales. Joseph’s twin brother, Joshua, handles the graphic design and marketing with the help of Juan Martinez Jr. And Joseph, of course, maintains the title of resident Head Brewer.

Plans for a distillery are also in the works. However, because the paperwork is just as intensive as the that for the brewery, it’s still another 6 to 9 months in the making. Although part of the original plan for 411 Broadway, they found that the process could hold them in limbo for an additional year before getting the clearance to open. So, instead of making everyone wait, they opted to start with the brewery first and then incorporate the distillery later.

And do you know what they have planned for the distillery? Brace yourself. Absinthe and akvavit. Go big or go home, right? They also have plans for whiskey and non-aged spirits like gin and vodka. But you’ll have to keep in touch with them for the official launch dates on those.

The space inside 411 Broadway’s building will be largely dedicated to production due to the positive response they’ve already received. For the sit-down crowd, there is also a 4,000 sq ft space behind the building that will be used to establish a beer garden. The team is launching a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise the last of the funds needed to finish renovations and decor. The campaign will offer rewards like a VIP invite to their soft opening one week before their grand opening. The Kickstarter campaign will be announced on their Facebook page as soon as it launches.

Parking has been a common question for the brewery; the team has been working with Fresno PD and the Downtown Fresno Partnership on the topic of safety. If that isn’t a confidence builder, then maybe free parking will be; there isn’t a meter in sight.

“Brewing is a lot of science, but a lot of it is actually art. The ability to express myself through brewing is pretty rewarding; then to have people try it and actually enjoy it, that’s what’s really gratifying,” Soleno shares. After all the years of cutting his teeth on scrubbing floors, cleaning tanks, and brewing for others, he’s ready to step out on his own with the support of his family and his original brews carving the path ahead.

Craft beer is a love affair. Between the drinkers and the makers, everyone can agree that the fandom is real. Get ready, because 411 Broadway Ales & Spirits is about to bring yet another unique and original experience to the Central Valley.

Follow 411 Broadway Ales & Spirits on Facebook @411BroadwayBrew for up to date information and details about their grand opening.

Downtown Fresno Ale Trail

In two years’ time, downtown Fresno’s craft beer scene has experienced momentous growth. Two established and flourishing breweries – Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co. and Full Circle Brewing Co. – have cemented themselves as not only downtown anchors, but game-changers in the craft beer world.

Over the course of the next few months, three new breweries will open up in downtown Fresno – HOP PK, 411 Broadway Spirits & Ales, and Zack’s Brewing Company. These five breweries will form a community focused on advancing Fresno’s craft beer scene and expanding the newly-formed Brewery District. Encompassing downtown’s distinctive energy; these breweries represent a spirit you’ll find along Fresno’s streets, with flavors you can’t get anywhere else.

In March the Downtown Fresno Partnership (DFP) announced the Downtown Fresno Ale Trail as an experience completely unique to downtown Fresno. Designed for locals and visitors alike, the Ale Trail will be comprised of these five craft breweries, and will officially open this fall. So, grab a drinking buddy, maybe even a hiking buddy, and join in for this authentically Fresno activity.

Start by picking up a passport at one of the five breweries; visit each stop on the trail tracking your travels and collecting a stamp. Once you have them all, turn in your passport for a limited-edition Downtown Fresno Ale Trail prize.

And, if you can’t wait to test out the trail, catch a sneak peek at the Fulton Street Party, happening October 21. This event will feature a car cruise, exclusive pop-up shops, drink and food specials from Fulton restaurants, live music and street art, and the chance to meet the brewers and sample the beers of the Ale Trail. Head over to DFP’s Facebook page @DowntownFresno for more info on this event.

For more info about each of these breweries, and the opening of the Downtown Fresno Ale Trail, stay updated on all things brewing by following along on Facebook and Instagram @DowntownFresnoAleTrail.