Modified city hall theater not best solution


The new City Hall is not perfect, and it is not ours-it is theirs. This design is staff-serving, not community and tax-payer serving, with all of the top level, ocean view offices reserved for staff and our beautiful, 500-seat theater slashed in half. The “larger, dedicated senior center” is in the back, on the ground floor, facing a brick wall!

Laura Rosenthal claims to have spent a “considerable amount of time” talking with the architects and others-she had one meeting with the architect for an hour or so before her first City Council meeting when she voted for the very policy she claimed to be opposed to during the campaign. We at S.O.S. (Save Our Seats) would like to discuss some of the reasons why a modified theater is not the best solution.

ADA and saving money. Any additional cost that is incurred in order to make the building Americans with Disabilities Act compliant will be recouped partially by the savings from not going forward with the alterations to the theater. Any remaining deficit will be quickly made up by the income that the theater generates. With 220 to 285 seats the theater will not generate profit. We hear a lot from the council about how expensive it would be to make the necessary improvements in order to keep the theater as-is, but we hear nothing about the fact that it would cost money to handicap its ability to make any money at all! With a $27 million dollar price tag, cost should be a major concern -but with the complete abandonment of future income as well as the premature eviction of rent-paying tenants, it does not seem to be so. And if adding restrooms is genuinely a problem with the Regional Water Quality Board, the solution is simply to reduce one of the men and women’s restrooms by one fixture each and relocate them to the other side of the building. The demands on the restrooms during the working day versus evening performances would balance out.

Building code compliance: The three exits from the theater already exist. There is one each on either side of the theater and the third is through the backstage. In the event of an emergency people would be happy to exit the building through the backstage if necessary.

City Hall efficiency: The broadcast room/equipment is already located upstairs —it can stay right where it is. So is the computer server room. And even if a small amount of additional space beyond what is already present for these facilities is needed, the spacious and luxurious ocean-view city management and administrative services offices have plenty of extra space and potential for fat trimming.

Vestibule: The vestibule will not “greatly enhance the use of the theater” — what will greatly enhance the use of the theater is not handicapping it by cutting the size in half and reducing its value and usefulness as a community asset. The creation of the vestibule is the elimination of the entire back of the auditorium. We have heard no complaints about the “light and noise that flows into the theater whenever the main door is opened” from anyone in the community except Laura, and, if polled, we predict the community response would be that they’d rather have seating for 215 more citizens than “soften the light and noise.” Hang a curtain if that is such a problem. With regard to the art gallery, why is floor space needed to hang art on walls? There are plenty of other public walls in the building on which to hang art.

Laura also discussed perceived problems with the theater such as acoustics and no tiered seating. The new design does not add tiered seating, and the acoustics and sound quality are top-notch in that room — a fact that has been testified to repeatedly by sound designers and experts. And as far as the “substantial disagreement” over the theater as it stands, all we can say is, 1,400 signatures on a petition represents a clear consensus that the community desires to keep it in its current state, not “substantial disagreement.”

Laura agrees that we need additional venues and a local cultural center, but makes no commitment to creating one. While we at S.O.S. would applaud and be overjoyed with a proper center for the arts that is brand new, state-of-the-art and large enough to welcome world class performers, we are distrustful of her (and the council’s) willingness and commitment to keep promises based on her immediate, post-election about-face. We have no guarantee from the City Council of a commitment to the creation of a performing arts facility worthy of the name Malibu, and it is therefore incumbent upon us to continue to pursue the preservation of the only one we may ever have.

Gardia Fox / S.O.S. – Save Our Seats