PLEASANT HILL -- In the latest setback for the developer, the city on Thursday postponed the demolition of the dome movie theater pending another appeal hearing.
In an April 25 letter, Mike Nielsen, chief building official for Pleasant Hill, said SyWest Development cannot tear down the theater until after the Building Board of Appeals holds a hearing on the demolition permit. That hearing has yet to be scheduled.
Before this latest hurdle, SyWest could have razed the 46-year-old local landmark as soon as Cinemark Theatres removes its property. The movie theater closed April 21 and Cinemark has until May 3 to clear out the building. The City Council is scheduled to consider an appeal of the project May 6.
Although the appeals will cost time and money, SyWest President Bill Vierra said he is not concerned about the outcome because the city has reviewed and approved the redevelopment plans in a series of public meetings going back nearly a decade.
"I'm OK with it because there's a process, and the city has to go through it," Vierra said. "Things are going to have to play out, and people have an issue they want to vent."
On Tuesday, attorney Mark Wolfe, who represents the Save the Pleasant Hill Dome group, asked the city to revoke the demolition permit. Wolfe contends that the city should not have issued the permit until after the May 6 appeal hearing.
In a letter dated April 26, City Attorney Janet Coleson did not address Wolfe's argument other than to say, "we disagree with your characterization of the project." Wolfe could not be reached for comment Friday.
In the appeal to the building board, Pleasant Hill resident Dorothy Englund raised several questions related to the demolition permit including whether the city reviewed plans for removing hazardous materials and disposing of waste from the building. Vierra believes the company submitted a complete application to the city.
SyWest has been trying for years to redevelop the southern half of the Crossroads Shopping Center. The company applied for the demolition permit in January, and the city issued it April 1. On April 8, opponents filed an appeal of the Planning Commission's approval of permits for SyWest's development proposal, which calls for demolishing the movie theater and replacing it with a two-story Dick's Sporting Goods store. SyWest also plans to renovate the adjacent building that once housed the Bally Total Fitness Gym.
Supporters say the city should preserve the theater as a venue for independent films or convert it into an arts and cultural center. On Friday, Vierra said unequivocally that Cinemark will never show movies at the dome again, nor will SyWest repurpose the building for community or municipal use.
"If it stops now for some reason (the dome is) just going to sit the way it's sitting and we'll hold it like that, if we don't demolish it, until it falls down," he said. "I don't think that's good for anybody."
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.