The future of the city’s iconic Bay Theatre could hinge on a single letter.
As the first step towards protecting the Bay Theater from being closed or torn down, the Seal Beach Planning Commission decided Wednesday night to reach out to its owner to see if she would be interested in preserving it as a historic landmark.
A Seal Beach staple, the Bay Theater, a 64 year-old building and Main Street anchor was listed ‘For Sale’ in 2008 by Rena L. Singer after she inherited the building from he father, Richard Loderhose. City officials hope she will want to help preserve this historic building.
After discussing several options to “save” the theatre, the planning commission was in agreement Wednesday that in order to move forward, the property owner needs to be contacted.
Commissioner Goldberg, a clear advocate for preservation, said the city shouldn’t do anything to affect the property without first getting in touch with the owner in a pleasant way. From there, the best option moving forward would be to place the property on the city’s short list of Historic Structures, he said. There are currently two properties on this list, the Krenwinkel House and the Proctor House.
“Placing the property on the local list would do two things, it would make them eligible for the Mills Acts, and it would also allow the building to be worked on, renovated and preserved,” Goldberg said. “These are two incentives that the owner would get for being on the local historic list.”
The Mills Act, which was discussed extensively, would give the owner a property tax break. Goldberg said this could be upwards of $1,000. And it would also guarantee the theater would remain a theater for at least 10 years.
If the agreement is broken, the city could sue or void the agreement and collect 12.5 percent of the assessed value of the property, a hefty sum, said the city’s attorney.
Other options discussed at the meeting include using zoning code, preservation easements, or a historic preservation overlay zone and the California ‘Point of Historical Interest’ designation to protect it from being torn down or provide incentive for the owner to keep it as a theater. Each of these options would need owner involvement.
Chairwoman Massa-Lavitt said now is the time to preserve the theater.
“We’ve lost significant structures in Seal Beach,” she said, namely the home where the first Postmaster lived. “And it is now time to remedy that.”
If declared a historic landmark, the Bay would be protected from demolition. And if the Mills Act is the route taken, the city would be in a 10-year contract with the owner to ensure the Bay remains a movie theater.
Loderhose, former CEO of United Resin Products, bought the Bay in 1975 and helped keep it screening films since. When he died in 2008, his daughter put up the Bay for sale.
Singer lives in Florida, Goldberg said.
“This is a theater that Steven Spielberg once frequented in the 1960s, while he was a student at California State Long Beach,” he said. “This is a staple in our community, and we need to take the right course of action to preserve it.”
Commissioner Everson said that putting the building on the Local Historic List is the best plan of attack after the letter is sent.
“This would give us the most flexibility to move forward with any of the other options in the future,” he said. “If we did this, we wouldn’t be restricted from changing to another option — most of which require owner consent.”