PLEASANT HILL -- Despite a campaign to save the domed movie theater in Pleasant Hill, the screens soon could go dark after nearly half a century of blockbusters and foreign flicks.
The Planning Commission on Tuesday approved a development plan permit and conditional use permit for SyWest Development's proposal to raze the landmark movie theater and replace it with a two-story Dick's Sporting Goods store. The company also plans to renovate the adjacent building that once housed the Bally Total Fitness Gym. Construction could begin this summer.
Commissioner Jim Bonato, who cast the only no vote, said he is disappointed with the quality of the project, which he feels falls short of truly updating the southern half of the Crossroads Shopping Center.
"I think we deserve better," Bonato said.
Opponents have 10 calendar days to appeal the Planning Commission's decision to the City Council. The Architectural Review Commission is scheduled to review on April 4 the project's landscaping, colors, signage and other aesthetic features.
Last week, the commissioners asked SyWest to consider including in their project a small theater that could show independent films.
"When we put the numbers together we came up with the conclusion that it's not financially feasible to do this," SyWest President Bill Vierra said.
The planning commissioners restricted the height of the letters in "Dick's" to a maximum of 6 feet on the sign facing Interstate 680 and 4 feet on the sign overlooking Buskirk Avenue and the Fair Oaks residential neighborhood. SyWest also must install a mural of the dome theater.
Commissioner Diana Vavrek raised concerns about safety in the 30-foot-wide pedestrian breezeway between the planned Dick's and the existing Marshalls that leads to the Dollar Tree store.
"There's only one way in and one way out, which is fine when the Dollar Tree is open," Vavrek said. "What happens when it's closed?"
Although Vierra said the breezeway will be brightly lighted at all times, the commissioners also will require the police chief and the zoning administrator to approve a security plan for the area before tenants move in.
Before the meeting, about four dozen fans staged a "Save the Dome" rally outside City Hall. They would rather see the theater surrounded by upscale boutiques, restaurants and outdoor seating. Protesters also want the City Council to come to the rescue.
"I really would like them to not agree to the redevelopment plan by SyWest, or at least take it off the table and check into the option of making it a historic resource," said Pleasant Hill resident Deborah Burman, who organized the protest.
Although the dome theater is four years shy of qualifying for possible listing on the California Register of Historical Resources, supporters hope the council will designate the theater a local cultural resource. That label wouldn't automatically save the dome, but SyWest would need a demolition permit from the city's cultural resource management commission.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.