PLEASANT HILL -- Even as supporters of the iconic domed movie theater in Pleasant Hill prepare to present their case for saving it to the City Council next month, there's no guarantee there will be anything left to save.
SyWest Development has a demolition permit from the city, and President Bill Vierra declined to say whether the company will wait to tear down the theater until after a May 6 appeal hearing.
"We're just not going to comment on anything," Vierra said. "The city has a process, and we're going to let the city go through it and do their thing."
The five-screen movie theater, formally known as CinéArts at Pleasant Hill and referred to locally as "the dome," closes on Sunday. Cinemark Theatres, which operates the dome, has until May 3 to remove its property, including seats, the concession stand, projectors and other equipment, according to Pleasant Hill spokesman Martin Nelis.
The council is meeting in closed session Monday to discuss anticipated litigation related to the development project.
SyWest Development has been trying for years to modernize the southern half of the Crossroads Shopping Center on Monument Boulevard and Buskirk Avenue. Last month, the Planning Commission approved a development plan permit and conditional use permit for SyWest's proposal, which calls for demolishing the distinctive, geodesic dome-roofed theater and replacing it with a two-story, 73,176-square-foot Dick's Sporting Goods store.
SyWest also plans to renovate the adjacent 21,788-square-foot building that once housed the Bally Total Fitness Gym.
On April 8, a group called Save the Pleasant Hill Dome appealed the commission's decision. The group contends the project is inconsistent with the city's general plan. Specifically, they say the city hasn't properly considered the 46-year-old movie theater's historical, cultural or landmark value.
At last week's council meeting, opponents of the plan asked the council to rescind the demolition permit until after the appeal hearing. City Attorney Janet Coleson said opponents can't appeal the demolition permit to the council, but she didn't directly address the group's argument that because demolishing the theater is integral to the project, the council should prevent SyWest from razing it until after the appeal hearing.
In 1967, the Pleasant Hill Soroptimists sponsored the opening night festivities for the theater. Nine hundred guests sipped sparkling wine and watched the epic romance "Doctor Zhivago," according to the historical booklet commemorating the city's 25th anniversary. Blockbusters such as "Jurassic Park" have screened at the dome, and in recent years, foreign and independent film buffs have found a home there, too. Over three recent weekends, dome supporters say they collected 791 signatures from theatergoers across the Bay Area. They believe the theater could attract more film festivals, become a venue for live performances, and support local filmmakers.
"The interest in preserving the dome is regional," Danville resident Chelsea Simmons told the council last week.
Fans have one last chance this weekend to experience the dome's big-screen showings of the classics "The Sound of Music" on Saturday and "2001: A Space Odyssey" on Sunday. Matt Byrom, a member of Save the Pleasant Hill Dome, said supporters will be there again collecting petition signatures and cash donations to fund potential legal action against the city.
"Our goal is to delay the process as long as possible," he said. Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.