SFist has been following stories of our endangered local theaters. We've watched in despair as the last few years have seen the loss of the Alexandria, Regency, and Royal. And we've been even more dismayed by San Francisco Proposition L which, in the words of the San Francisco Chronicle,seeks to "allow a small, unknown group of theater advocates to take $10 million from the city's hotel tax revenues and allegedly use it to purchase movie theaters and to promote the local film industry." We have wondered "Why can't we just hang on to what we have?"
Therefore, we were happy to hear that on October 5 of this year, the SF Board of Supervisors "passed by a vote of 10-1 an urgency ordinance imposing a temporary moratorium on the demolition of small neighborhood theaters."
SFist spoke to Jerry Threet, the press contact in the case of this ordinance. He explained to us that this temporary moratorium freezes everything in place while the Board gives consideration to solutions to this issue. As discussed by the board today, Supervisor Jake McGoldrick has recommended a permanent ordinance stating that before a small neighborhood theater (such as the 4-Star) be approved for any change of use, that it must submit to a conditional use process where in which it would be determined if the closing and/or demolition of the theater would be in the community's best interests. The change of use would have to meet these three criteria: 1) That the loss of the theater be proven not to have a negative effect on the community; 2) That the significant architectural details of the theater be retained; and 3) The theater must be proven to be economically non-viable, thus "justifying" its closing.
Unfortunately for our beloved Coronet, this ordinance does nothing to protect it, as it would apply only to demolition permits that have been yet to be submitted. Mr. Threet gave us some interesting insight into that situation, as well: Apparently, the zoning rules in that area were altered for the Coronet to accomodate the front spire. Because of this alteration in zoning, the present designs for the assisted living facility to be built there make the entire building the height of the Coronet's sign. In Mr. Threet's words, "I've seen a design, and it looked like a wall!" Needless to say, neighborhood reactions to these plans have been quite negative, and as Supervisor McGoldrick has maintained that neighborhood support for any future plans with that space is critical, the future of the facility remains in the balance.
In short, our neighboorhood theaters are no worse off than they were before, and after today's board meeting may have a chance to be better. We'll be sure to keep you posted, so stay tuned, and please give thorough consideration to the ramifications of Proposition L before you enter the voting booth.