Friends of the Cerrito Theater is asking people who love the historic theater, which operates as Rialto Cinemas Cerrito, and want to see it preserved as a movie theater and as a historic building to attend two meetings, next week and the week after.
On Tuesday, June 19, starting at 7 p.m., during its regular meeting, the El Cerrito City Council will be asked to approve a deal selling the theater to its current operators, Rialto Cinemas. The meeting is at City Hall, 10890 San Pablo Ave.
Friends of the Cerrito Theater has been discussing the proposed sale with city officials and the people from Rialto and we support the sale.
The last we heard, the agreement will call for deed restrictions that would preclude any other use of the building other than for movies, theater or performance, and would safeguard the historic elements, from neon marquee to art glass to murals.
The terms of the restrictions would last 99 years. You can read the proposed agreement by pulling up the agenda for the Tuesday meeting. It will be posted Thursday.
The City Council is expected to back the agreement with no controversy.
The city has to sell the theater because it bought it under redevelopment law. When the state ordered the end of redevelopment, cities that served as redevelopment agencies were told to dispose of redevelopment assets, which include the theater.
Funds from the sale will go to various taxing agencies, including the city, county, and school district.
The more important meeting will be Wednesday, June 27, at 7 p.m. and also at City Hall (likely in a small conference room).
This will be a meeting of the “Oversight Board for the Successor Agency of the former El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency.” This group, with local representatives, was set up to ensure fair disposition of redevelopment properties.
It will be asked to approve the sale of the theater to Rialto Cinemas.
It is clear that the city could get more money by selling the theater to a developer who would rip it down for housing. (Though that would be complicated by the series of leases Rialto currently holds for the building).
Loss of the theater would also be a devastating blow to the citizenry of El Cerrito and fans of the theater from surrounding towns. It would also harm the city’s business climate and the “theater district” that has grown up around the theater.
The city used redevelopment funds to buy and help restore the theater to boost economic development and social well-being in the city. In that, the city succeeded. No one wants to lose those benefits.
The bet is that the “Oversight Board” will understand this. But wouldn’t it be wise to remind them just how strongly people in El Cerrito want to do what Friends got together to do back in 2002?
Save the Cerrito Theater.
If you cannot attend the Oversight meeting, you can send comments or drop them off at City Hall. Address them to “Oversight Board of the Successor Agency,” c/o City Hall, 10890 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, 94530.