PLEASANT HILL -- Now that the dome movie theater is no more, Pleasant Hill leaders want to revisit the city's guidelines for protecting cultural and historic sites.
Since 1996, the zoning ordinance has included policies related to historical preservation. But many of the provisions in the ordinance were never implemented, including the formation of a cultural resource management commission and a comprehensive survey of the city's cultural heritage resources.
The City Council could have declared the 46-year-old movie theater a local historic resource, even though the building wasn't old enough to qualify for possible listing on the California Register of Historical Resources.
Such a designation would not have automatically saved the movie house from the wrecking ball, but it would have required the property owner to get a demolition permit from the cultural resource management commission.
The council on Monday directed the Planning Commission to hold a workshop to gather public input about how to tackle the issue of historic preservation and to provide recommendations to the council by the end of the year.
In light of the passion stirred up in the community by the dome's demise, City Councilman Jack Weir said it makes sense to discuss this issue.
"I think we need to do a better job making sure we identify places and features and buildings that are significant to Pleasant Hill," said Weir, who sits on the Pleasant Hill Historical Society's board.
Denise Koroslev, president of the historical society and the Friends of Rodgers Ranch, reeled off a list of valued places in Pleasant Hill, including the Soldiers Monument on Contra Cost Boulevard, the Old School House, Mangini Farm and Diablo Valley College. She urged the council to take action to ensure that the city's cultural and historic assets are preserved.
"Don't let this become a memorial tapestry, paying tribute to all the sites we've lost," said Koroslev, holding aloft the historical society's tapestry that is embroidered with images of the dome theater and several of the other sites she named.
Paul Nilsen said the city has enough retail stores and urged the council to shift its focus away from development.
"I think it's time to push forward and establish some culture and art," he said.
Nilsen also said the city should work with the Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District to restore Rodgers Ranch and the Old School House, both of which the district owns.
The School House has been closed to the public since 2008 when inspectors found a host of dangerous flaws in the 88-year-old building, including a cracked foundation, a tangled electrical system, broken stairs and a weak ceiling. At that time, the estimated cost to repair the School House was nearly $1 million.
Councilman David Durant said the city has a long history of working with and helping the recreation district, such as donating parkland. Although the city can't give the recreation district funds directly, Durant said council members have contributed time and money to support Rodgers Ranch.
The dome movie theater was demolished in May to make way for a Dick's Sporting Goods store. A group known as Save the Pleasant Hill Dome contended that the city hadn't properly considered the theater's historical, cultural or landmark value.
Theater fans said the building could be turned into a live entertainment venue or arts center akin to Walnut Creek's Lesher Center. However, SyWest Development, which owns the property, wasn't interested in that idea.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.