Death of the Dome


collin james

Pleasant Hill’s iconic Cinearts movie theater, famous for its large dome structure was torn down May 8. The decision to tear down the Dome came after the city council voted 3-2 to uphold a redevelopment plan of the area around the iconic dome.

SyWest, the company that owns the land that the dome is on, moved quickly to demolish the beloved dome after the decision was made to go forward with redevelopment.

Two days after the council meeting, a demolition crew hired by SyWest gathered in front of the Dome, and within hours, the dome was knocked down, but the theater still stands.

The community wide effort to save the dome came after the city of Pleasant Hill approved of replacing the Cinearts structure with a Dick’s Sporting Goods store. Since then, a huge out-pouring of support came in the form of e-mails to city council.

A nonprofit corporation, Save the Pleasant Hill Dome was created to spearhead the dome’s preservation efforts. They organized a rally in front of the dome last April as well as an official appeal of the demolition to the city council.

On May 6, supporters of the dome came to Pleasant Hill’s city council meeting discussing the dome’s fate. Dozens of citizens came to Pleasant Hill’s city council meeting to voice their support of the dome in a meeting that lasted till 2:30 a.m.

Lifelong Pleasant Hill residents as well as fans of the Dome from across the Bay Area argued for the salvation of the dome. Many who came to defend the dome maintained it was important to the city culturally as well as architecturally.

“It’s a cultural center that separates us from the other cities in the area,” said high school senior Tanner Fustal.

In addition, the Dome had a special place to many of the residents of the area.

Danville resident Chelsea Simmons stated, “The dome became a sanctuary to me.”

Another resident, Carol Rose, believed that the dome created life lasting moments that a sporting goods store couldn’t: “Buying a pair of running shorts does not (make) a lasting memory.”

The decision itself was difficult to make for the city council.

Councilman Ken Carlson recalled how he “cut school to see movies at the dome,” when he was younger.

Tim Flaherty, who voted against the dome’s preservation, mentioned, “The Dome theatre is my favorite theater.” Despite the outpouring of the community in the last few months, Flaherty maintained that the redevelopment plan had been a “decade long process that has been altered and changed, but removing the dome had been a constant.”

Vice Mayor Jack Weir cited his decision on the rights of individual property rights. “We cannot force (SyWest) to play independent films when they feel it is not economically feasible… Property rights are absolutely critical.”

Members of the council felt that the dome lost much of its historical significance now that it no longer played independent films.

The quick demolition of the dome came as a shock to many of its supporters.

“There was definite malice in how they chose to destroy (the Dome) on Wednesday,” claims Martha Ross, an organizer for the Save The Pleasant Hill Dome.

The organization’s website made this announcement: “We would like to hold some kind of memorial event to bring together all the people who want to pay tribute to the Dome—to share memories and to even share ideas on how to help the spirit of the Dome live on. We welcome your ideas on what would be a fitting memorial.

The new redevelopment plans to revitalize the local economy with new businesses coming into the city. Dick’s Sporting Goods is set to rise where the dome once stood, but this is the only new business that is set to come into the area around the dome. Any plans for new restaurants or new business to open up in the area are likely to be years away.

Bill Vierra, the representative of SyWest is not fazed by this issue: “The long term planning of the city is essential.”

There is no current plan for an independent movie theatre to open up in the near future, but the support that was shown for such a venue may be a possibility for Pleasant Hill and Concord residents.