The Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission on Wednesday approved the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Golden Gate Theatre, which included a ‘Statement of Overriding Considerations’ to justify irreversible impacts from the redevelopment of the historic and cultural building.
Charles Company, M&A Gabaee, LP, owners of the property that includes Jim’s Burger on the same parcel, have proposed encapsulating the inside of the theatre to accommodate a CVS Pharmacy or similar tenant. The Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission is also currently considering Conditional Use Permits for a drive-thru and for alcohol sales at the site.
Work at the site is unlikely to begin before a long-term tenant is secured.
According to the Statement of Overriding Considerations, available online in the Final EIR, the Commission has determined that the measures outlined to minimize the adverse effects of the redevelopment project are appropriate and can be implemented in accordance with CEQA requirements. Under CEQA, the benefits derived from the proposed changes can be approved if the specific overriding economic, legal, social, technological, or other benefits outweigh the benefits of not allowing the project to proceed.
While some aspects of the historic building will be removed and preserved, like the bandshell and stairs, other changes allowed will require that the building is convertible back to its original theater use in the future.
The main factors the County of Los Angeles Regional Planning Commission considers as overriding benefits are job creation, reduction of blight, promoting preservation of the theatre, stimulating growth in the area by encouraging more businesses investment in the East L.A. community and increasing the attractiveness of the commercial intersection to visitors.
The rehabilitation of the Golden Gate Theater and renovation of the restaurant would be consistent with the East Los Angeles Community Plan to reduce blight by redeveloping the long-time vacant and deteriorating property, “with a use needed in the community,” and creating a commercial development at a prominent commercial intersection, according to the Statement of Overriding Considerations.
It would also advance the goals and policies of the County General Plan by promoting the preservation and improvement of the historic theatre, and removing a blighting influence through the rehabilitation of the long-standing vacant building into a viable retail establishment, and advance the Physical Environment Goal of the East Los Angeles Community Plan by renovating the vacant theater and restaurant building to improve the aesthetic qualities of the East Los Angeles Community, according to the statement.
“The rehabilitated Golden Gate Theater and renovated restaurant would promote the efficient delivery of services, such as health, public safety, and education as the retail pharmacy on the project site will provide additional health services to the immediate East Los Angeles Community,” according to the statement attached to the EIR.
It is unclear what educational services would be provided at a retail pharmacy.
Opponents of the project have pointed out that the proximity of other national brand retail pharmacies near the site, as well as other businesses that sell alcohol, as one of the reasons they see no positive benefit to the community. While they prefer that the property be redeveloped for use as a cultural or entertainment center, the current economic crisis may be a factor in the projects approval.
Read this story IN SPANISH: Razones Imperiosas Para Reutilizar El Teatro Golden Gate 
Frank Villalobos, president of Barrio Planners, was present at the hearing Wednesday morning and told EGP the commission approved the EIR without the cultural or historical mitigations wanted by the community. They were not addressed in the report, he said.
A retail pharmacy at the renovated theatre site is expected to generate $6 million dollars a year in taxable sales; a portion of the sales revenues would go to the County of Los Angeles general fund.
The next commission hearing for the project is scheduled for March.
The Golden Gate Theater is located on the corner of Whittier and Atlantic in East L.A. at 909 South Atlantic Boulevard.