Some issues are guaranteed to get the public's knickers in a bunch -- gun control, medical marijuana, immigration reform -- but the ones that generate the greatest emotional investment sometimes come out of left field.
So it was at Monday night's Pleasant Hill City Council meeting, where about 150 residents filled the seats, lined the walls and poured out their hearts in sharing their appreciation for a 46-year-old building with a convex roof that stood nearly vacant most of the time.
These were the organizers and supporters of a group dedicated to saving the Pleasant Hill dome -- former home of the CineArts theater -- which was demolished Wednesday to accommodate a new Dick's Sporting Goods store.
To be blunt, the dome had seen better days. Ticket buyers did not line up around the block. The parking lot was never packed. Property owner SyWest Development said the theater's screens played to an average 7 percent of seating capacity, which is bad even for an Adam Sandler movie.
But hard reality paled alongside a community's attachment to a special place, especially one that dated to 1967 when it was a state-of-the-art showplace for blockbuster films. There was no escaping the passion, nostalgia and well-intended overstatement of those who joined together for the dome's last stand.
Group ringleader Martha Ross variously described it as a "cultural jewel," "rare treasure" and "unique landmark venue." Others called it a local icon, historic resource and Pleasant Hill's identity (Here's hoping that some day the city will be known for something more than a movie theater.)
Several people said the only reason they visited the Crossroads Shopping Center was to see movies at the dome. One woman said if it were demolished, she would quit patronizing Pleasant Hill stores and give her tax dollars to neighboring communities. Most surprising was the testimony of a resident who credited the theater for her and her husband remaining in Pleasant Hill.
"When we thought about moving to the mountains or other places," she said, "we thought about how much we would miss going to the dome to see independent films."
Heartfelt sentiment sometimes gives birth to exaggeration.
Theatergoers talked about having their first date or first kiss at the movie house. They talked about relishing in seeing "Star Wars" and "Jaws" on the huge screen. They relived memories, shared emotions and gushed community pride over its unique design.
One woman, overwrought at the dome's impending disappearance, warned council members that "once it's destroyed, like the Twin Towers, you don't see it anymore." Impassioned as she was, another analogy might have been better.
Dome lovers grasped for any compromise. Perhaps the city could turn it into a cultural arts center. How about a music hall? Theatrical stage? Host of film festivals? A tiny obstacle to the proposals was that SyWest owns the property.
"It's important for a community to preserve its precious treasures," one speaker insisted. "I hope this council will consider this, and it will never be said that Dick's Sporting Goods came in and caused the council to be thought of as schmucks."
In the end, nostalgia and emotion came up one vote short. By a 3-2 margin, the council voted to be schmucks.
But no one can say the dome didn't get a heckuva farewell.
Contact Tom Barnidge at firstname.lastname@example.org.