Firm has designs on an East L.A. theater

Preservationists and developers are wrangling over the future of an abandoned theater in East Los Angeles that represents a Spanish-baroque style rarely found in the city.

Activists, developers and local business people presented two starkly different visions this week of what could be done with the abandoned Golden Gate Theater near Whittier and Atlantic boulevards.

At a hearing Wednesday before the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission, some advocated converting the building into a CVS pharmacy that would have alcohol sales and a drive-through pharmacy window. Others want to return the theater, built in 1927, to its original purpose.

The theater’s entrance replicates the portal of the University of Salamanca in Spain and is built in the Churrigueresque style, a Spanish baroque approach to architecture. The theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


“We don’t want to see the building torn down or changed,” resident Mark Martinez told the commission. “It would be a shame if they did this to this building.”

Martinez, who lives near the theater, attended the hearing in downtown Los Angeles to protest the proposed pharmacy.

Officials with the Charles Co., which owns the property, said they would not demolish the building and they would preserve its architectural elements if they were allowed to use the site for commercial purposes.

“We specialize in very challenging sites,” said Sarah Magana-Withers, a spokeswoman for the Charles Co.

The Golden Gate Theater has been “vacant for more than 20 years,” she said, and a CVS could help revitalize the area.

County staff members were directed to conduct more research on the pharmacy proposal and include the information in an environmental impact report. The commission will receive a final report Aug. 19, when it could vote on the drug store project, said regional planning assistant Anita Gutierrez.