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

May 14, 2009 |  8:00 am

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