I am a 20-year-old resident of Pleasant Hill, and in light of impending demolition of Cinearts 5 Pleasant Hill, I want to reflect on a few reasons why I think the Dome should be left alone.
SyWest Development, the firm that wields the Dome's demolition permit, is based out of San Rafael. According to its website, SyWest specializes in providing "creative solutions" for establishing "long-term value" in "existing underperforming assets."
I read SyWest's marketing kit for that special piece of real estate on Buskirk Avenue and it made me sick. It cited our average income and broke us down into percentages of race. According to those statistics, it seems that a Dick's Sporting Goods will best suit our community's interests and needs.
Where is the "creative solution" in this banal addition to Pleasant Hill? What about the "long-term value" in the all of the gritty, exceptional films and documentaries that will no longer play in Pleasant Hill?
Carolyn Jones of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that the Dome's redemption was unlikely, dismissing our city as "a sleepy expanse of ranch homes, strip malls and parks sandwiched between Walnut Creek and Concord."
It hurts to read such a description, but it hurts more to watch SyWest and our own City Council let us live up to such condescension. But Jones' comments leave us something to consider. What is distinctive about Pleasant Hill? Do we value these distinctions? When these few distinctions in our community underperform fiscally, should we allow firms like SyWest to buy and extinguish them -- despite their historical and cultural significance?
What average income, what percentage of race would Pleasant Hill need to exhibit in order to keep the Dome where it is? Is there any combination of average income and percentage of race at all that allows a city a cinema that showcases independent and documentary film?
For me -- for all of us -- Pleasant Hill is home. Yet we're watching as our home is reduced to an arbitrary process of city planning defined by mere economic speculation, carried out by officials who seem accountable only to the companies large enough to invest in this speculation.
Where are our city's venues for intellectual stimulation, for personal encounters with art, for thought-provocation? At the least, where in this city can we admire an aesthetic and historical, dome-shaped anomaly instead of another tragically familiar, rectangle, differentiated only by the corporate chain it belongs to?
Not only was I lucky enough to grow up alongside an architectural feat, but lucky enough to grow up with the ability to see important, award-winning films they don't play at the Century 16 across the freeway.
We are letting a development firm deprive us of both of these things so a company can sell us the golf clubs we can already find at four different places on Contra Costa Boulevard.
I believe that SyWest and our own City Council made a cruel and embarrassing mistake. I stand by this belief because I know that I don't live in the kind of place, or among the kind of people, that value the marginal economic benefit of demolishing one of the last, iconic features of Pleasant Hill.
In truth, it's been a secret wish of mine that someone would buy the theater, refurbish it and its surrounding space so that we may perpetuate the profound and imperative task of bringing independent and documentary film to this city, giving people a reason to visit Pleasant Hill we can be proud of.
Secretly, I wish this person to be me, but until that day comes, I must call upon my fellow residents, SyWest Development and the City Council to please leave the Dome alone.
O'Neill is a student at UC Santa Cruz and a Pleasant Hill native.