The owner of the 57-year-old Beverly Theater in Beverly Hills has agreed to delay demolition of the historic structure to allow preservationists time to come up with proposals to save it.
Columbia Savings & Loan, which bought the theater on Wilshire Boulevard and Canon Drive last fall, also agreed to postpone for two weeks a hearing scheduled Monday on a suit it filed Jan. 15 seeking a court order to force the city to issue the company a demolition permit.
Columbia Savings agreed to the delays after a private meeting last week with company representatives, Beverly Hills Councilwoman Charlotte Spadaro and a group of preservationists, the Citizens Committee to Preserve Beverly Hills Landmarks.
Spadaro said that she will postpone action on a proposed urgency ordinance that would ban for 45 days the demolition of 13 city-listed historic buildings, including the theater.
The ordinance failed to carry two weeks ago when it received only two of a necessary four council votes. Spadaro and Councilman Robert K. Tanenbaum voted for it, Councilwoman Donna Ellman was against it, and Councilman Maxwell H. Salter abstained from voting because he owns stock in Columbia Savings. Mayor Benjamin H. Stansbury left the meeting before the vote was cast.
City Atty. Gregory Stepanicich has advised Stansbury not to participate in discussions until a ruling is made by the state Fair Political Practices Commission on a possible conflict of interest because he has a home loan from Columbia. A decision is not expected for several weeks.
Jeffrey Palmer, a Columbia Savings vice president, said the company agreed to postpone the court hearing in an effort to "come up with creative solutions to all our concerns."
"We obviously have economic concerns, the preservationists have artistic concerns, and the residents have parking concerns," Palmer said.
Ruthann Lehrer, a member of the citizens committee, expressed optimism. "We're very encouraged at this point," she said. "Constructive discussion has begun with Columbia Savings."
Lehrer said the key element in saving the theater is finding additional parking.
"Any future scenario must provide for on-site parking or adjacent parking," she said. "The theater use without parking has had a negative effect, and we are sensitive to that."
"It is always worth talking about things before fighting about them," said William Delvac, the citizens committee's attorney. "And if Columbia Savings has an open mind, as we believe they do, they may see that they can achieve a reasonable return on their investment while preserving the theater."