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Future of 1927-era East L.A. theater in question

Golden Gate Theater

Preservationists and developers are wrangling over the future of an abandoned theater in East Los Angeles that is historically significant and represents a Spanish-baroque style rarely found in the city.

Activists, developers and local business people presented two starkly different visions Wednesday of what could be done with the abandoned Golden Gate Theater near Whittier and Atlantic boulevards.

At a hearing before the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission, some advocated converting the building into a CVS pharmacy, complete with alcohol sales and a drive-through pharmacy window. Others want to return the theater, built in 1927, to its original purpose.

The theater's entrance replicates the portal of the University of Salamanca in Spain and is built in the Churrigueresque style, a Spanish baroque form of architecture. The theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“We don’t want to see the building torn down or changed,” resident Mark Martinez told the commission. "It would be a shame if they did this to this building."

Martinez, who lives near the theater, attended the hearing in downtown Los Angeles to protest the proposed pharmacy.

Officials with the Charles Company, which owns the property, said they would not demolish the building and they would preserve its architectural elements if they were allowed to use it for commercial purposes.

“We specialize in very challenging sites,” said Sarah Magaña-Withers, a spokeswoman for the Charles Company.

The Golden Gate Theater has been “vacant for more than 20 years,” she said, and a CVS could help revitalize the area.

County staff members were directed to conduct more research into the matter and include more information in an environmental impact report on the pharmacy proposal. Anita Gutierrez, a regional planning assistant, said staff would present a final report to the commission Aug. 19, when the panel could vote on whether to approve or deny the pharmacy project.

-- Ari B. Bloomekatz


Photos: Christina House / For The Times

Comments () | Archives (20)

"revitalize" the area? aren't the services in question already provided by the rite aid and target located a few blocks down from the site? as well, the costco soon to open in adjacent commerce will already do wonders for those itching for mass commercial areas, as seemingly described by the proposal. how unfortunate that folks would consider giving such a beautiful structure such a mundane use. imagine revitalization through the arts, culture, and community engagement -- an exchange of ideas and delights! this can prove to be the much needed forum, the beginning of a new era, in the area. something local youth in the area, myself included, have been begging, wishing for every time we have to make the drive west, east, north, south in order to find a bit of enlightening, thrilling entertainment.

lastly, where in downtown was the meeting held?

I remember going into the theater over 20 years ago to see "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad". I have alot fond memories of the Theater.

Why are our neighborhoods becoming saturated with CVS / Rite Aid / Walgreens??? There's one every couple of blocks!!! How does this help our community when there's already enough places to buy perscriptions but little to no space for art, theater, music, dance, writing, science, math...cuz you know our kids ain't getting that from our public school systems.

The theater should be restored to it's glory and utilized by the community as a space for the arts, lectures, and festivals. We need to use it in a way that will engage and benefit our youth because the more there is that will occupy them, the less likely they will choose to follow a more destructive path.

NO MORE CVS's!!! There are so many pharmacies in east la as it is! We do not need another one! There are 3 rite-aids, 2 wallgreens and a target nearby. Why a CVS?! ....KEEP THE THEATRE! East LA needs this theatre to revitalize the arts in the community!

It is a nasty looking square building with an amazing top. Save the top and move it to some Hollywood type's home or office then tear the thing down! This has been an ugly corner since I moved to LA in 1997! Perhaps use the money to fund a police department here and stop using the sheriff's department! Focus on the reality of this area.

A "nasty looking square building with an amazing top"? Since you only moved here in 97, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt since there's no way you have been inside and seen the actual theater or seen what used to be the facade and entry way to the theater. It used to put most of the other theaters in LA to shame. Earthquakes and overzealous developers made sure no one would ever see the entry way again.

The architecture inside the "nasty looking square building" is what's amazing, not the top. Like a couple of people who have posted here, I am old enough to remember going to see movies here way back when and sneaking in hot dogs from Pup 'n Taco.

Sadly, the greater value in this landmark was in the exterior facade that lined the perimiter of the lot. It was demolished years ago and the whole site hasn't been the same since. I agree with others that the neighborhood doesn't need another chain store as it does nothing to enhance the neighborhood.

Have the other Rite-AId or CVS developments contributed to revitalization of the area? Quite the contrary...along with the reconverted department stores that are now 'swap meets' and discount stores, this area has become a blight. You need to preserve this theatre to attract people back to the area and shed interest into developing this once grand sub-Los Angeles mainstreet


Bring back Pup 'n Taco! I remember going to the GG long ago, and getting my first b.j. in the front row while watching a slasher flick. Awesome.

It would be a shame to convert this bldg into a CVS, considering how much history this bldg has. I agree with Dre dwag... the theater should be restored to its glory!

This theater is part of the East Los Angeles folklore and we can not allow for another chain market to be situated here. Those people who look at it as a old ugly square building do not care about preserving our history. I attend UCSB and we are always referring to East Los Angeles as a landmark of Mexican authentic barrio and this landmark is part of what makes East Los Angeles.

If I had millions of dollars I would have restore the theater 20 years ago, when I laid eyes on it for the first time. Ever since then I've loved this bldg. and I don't even live in East L.A., but pasadena. It is a beautiful bldg. Restore it to it's original glory.

I agree that the area does not another pharmacy. I lived in that barrio 20 years and the last thing it needs is another pharmacy. Placing another pharmacy there is like opening another taqueria or taco stand, it's overkill. The neighborhood needs a firme community center because there's nothing like it nearby. If you want arts, sciences, or music you need to go to Boyle Height, Monterey Park, or Montebelllo. If you're going to tear down the movie theatre tear it down and build something that will provide beneficial services to la comunidad or community!

I am a theatre historian among other things and I am concerned about the demise of such historical and cultural landmarks in Southern California. I urge the surrounding community to be aware of their local cultural heritage and try and preserve this theatre.

that theater was always terrible. everyone hated it when it was a theater. there's the universal memory of the sticky floors, smell of beer and sweat on the seats, and crappy and desperate one dollar movies before its demise. away with it

Save the building!!! This is a gorgeous building when seen for what it is. It's nothing like it wasyears ago, but it is as famous as LA itself. I still remember seeing STAR WARS at this theater. Please, please please don't ruin ELA further with more crappy commercial stores. CVS? No!! Make it into a center for families or something more beneficial for the community of you HAVE TO, but not a crappy store. The same thing was done to other wonderful landmarks like The Brown Durby, The Coconut Grove...and I'm only 30!!

This theatre has to be saved. If I had the money, I'd buy it, and restore it for the good of the community. When I was a kid there were three movie theaters on Whittier Blvd in that area. One of them is now a swap meet type of store front and the other one was used as an Out of the Closet Thrift store for many years. That one has an Art Deco type of facade.

Not only does this theater have to be restored, but the original perimeter office and retail space that existed as well along Whittier and Atlantic. Back then you could enter the theatre from either street through huge barrel vaulted entry ways that led to a center courtyard. Each of the entry ways had the Golden Gate Neon signs above them. The theatre entrance was at the end of that courtyard. This perimeter building had a second story office tower right at the corner of Whittier and Atlantic. I'm sure there must be construction plans that exist somewhere of both buildings.

Here is a link that shows the beautiful Vega building that once surrounded the theatre. You can make out the top of the theater behind Vega building.


East LA needs a theatre/community center. Garfield High School's auditorium burned down and has yet to be rebuilt. The kids in the area need a place to come together and practice their talkents. THere are enough Rite Aiides in the area.


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