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Group Has 90 Days to Find Buyer for Beverly Theater

March 13, 1988|JULIO MORAN | Times Staff Writer

A Beverly Hills citizens committee trying to preserve the historic Beverly Theater has 90 days to find a buyer or the once-grand movie house probably will be demolished.

The city could be a potential buyer, but the City Council was not receptive to the idea when it was presented last week by Councilwoman Charlotte Spadaro.

The deadline is part of a settlement reached two weeks ago by the theater owner, the city and the Citizens Committee to Preserve Beverly Hills Landmarks.

The agreement settles a lawsuit filed in January against the city by the theater owner, Columbia Savings & Loan, which had been seeking a court order to force the city to issue the company a demolition permit.

No Public Discussion

William Delvac, the committee's attorney, said all parties had agreed the matter would not be discussed publicly.

Finding a buyer interested in preserving the 57-year-old theater will not be easy, said David C. Lachoff, a senior marketing consultant with Grubb & Ellis Co.

The facility has no on-site parking and would have to be brought up to current seismic, building and safety standards, which a Columbia official said would "cost a fortune."

A new owner also would have to contend with nearby residents who have complained for years about unruly patrons attending rock concerts at the theater. The residents favor demolition.

Columbia never was interested in preserving the theater, a company spokesman said, but rather wanted to construct a large office building on the entire southern frontage of Wilshire Boulevard between Canon and Reeves drives.

Plea for Theater

Spadaro tried unsuccessfully last Tuesday to persuade the City Council to purchase the theater.

She argued that the city's purchase could help preserve a city landmark while providing a community theater, which was taken out of the original plans for the expansion of the Civic Center because it was too costly.

Spadaro estimated that the theater could be bought for about $5.5 million.

"I think that any property on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills has got to be a good investment," she said. "The worst that can happen is that in a year or two we would sell the property for an enormous profit."

Columbia officials have indicated they believe the market value of the theater is about $10 million.

Estimate on Value

Lachoff, who specializes in real estate on the Westside, said land along that portion of Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills sells for about $250 a square foot.

Lachoff said a value cannot be set on the theater because of the limitations on its use, but that since it sits on about 16,500 square feet of buildable land, the property would be worth about $4.1 million.

Councilwoman Donna Ellman said she opposed the city purchasing the theater because of parking problems and residents' complaints.

Councilman Robert K. Tanenbaum said he would like to see the theater saved, but did not believe that only two of the five council members should make such an important decision. Mayor Benjamin H. Stansbury Jr. and Councilman Maxwell H. Salter, who was absent, have been advised by the city attorney not to participate in matters dealing with Columbia because of potential conflicts of interest. The mortgage on Stansbury's home is held by Columbia, and Salter owns stock in the company.

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