The City Council on Tuesday moved to change zoning boundaries in such a way that would prevent the historic Alex Theatre from being turned into a church, recreation center or even a banquet hall should the venue fall into the state’s hands and be sold off.
The theater has been in limbo since a state mandate forced cities like Glendale to dissolve their redevelopment agencies and send billions in property tax revenues to Sacramento to fill a yawning budget gap.
Glendale’s Redevelopment Agency once owned the Alex Theatre and has spent millions on restoring and operating the venue over the years.
Before the state mandate went into effect, Glendale transferred the theater to the city’s books, but officials are now worried the state may determine that move was illegal and take ownership of the property. If that happens, the state could sale the venue to raise more money.
Officials have feared that, in that scenario, the Alex could be purchased by the highest bidder and turned into a bowling alley or church. By changing zoning boundaries to include the property as part of the civic center, that couldn’t happen.
But there may still be a sticking point.
Sound stages or production facilities are prohibited under the civic center zoning, which could be a major hurdle for Glendale Arts, the nonprofit that operates the theater and rents the venue out for commercial and television show tapings.
“We don’t want to put any constraints on [Glendale Arts],” said Councilman Dave Weaver.
Officials plan to review how often the theater is currently used for film production and report back to the City Council next week on whether the change would hamper Glendale Arts.
City Atty. Mike Garcia said the sound stage restriction would only come into play if the venue was used for that purpose more than 50% of the time.
Elissa Glickman, executive director of Glendale Arts, said in an interview Wednesday she didn’t foresee a problem since the theater is used for production events about 15% of the time.
Overall, she said she supported the zoning change.
“I think it’s a great, proactive move on the council’s part,” she said. “It reinforces the city’s commitment not only to the venue but the investment that they’ve made over the past 20 years.”
Glendale Arts officials are interested in buying the Alex Theatre, but that would require a major fundraising effort to pull off.
The City Council is expected to finalize its vote on the ordinance next week.