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Wreckers Ripped Into Historic Theater by Accident, Owner of Complex Says

October 11, 1990

WHITTIER — It was merely a mistake when demolition workers illegally hacked down a section of the historic Whittier Theatre complex, said an attorney for Peter Doerkin, owner of the property.

Eleven workers took down support beams and sections of roof for about seven hours late last month before being discovered and stopped by residents and city officials.

"The demolition contractor had a permit to demolish another theater building in the city of Whittier," attorney Charles Cummings said. "The crews went to the wrong place. They made a mistake. They went there without our knowledge, consent or approval."

Demolition contractor Cleveland Wrecking is also the firm hired to level a non-historic theater near a mall more than two miles to the east.

The explanation did not satisfy City Council member Helen McKenna-Rahder, who had ordered workers off the site with the help of City Manager Thomas G. Mauk.

"They had the key to the fence and the whole bit," she said. "There was no demolition permit or anything. We are pursuing a better explanation."

In June, the state Office of Historic Preservation prohibited the 61-year-old theater's demolition. The developer intends to challenge the state in court, Cummings said.

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