Contact

Hello everyone! This is a friendly reminder that any of these fun places we may visit, we are a guest at. Please treat both businesses and trails with the utmost respect. We here at Hidden San Diego follow the 'Leave no Trace' mantra, meaning whatever you bring with you comes back with you. If you see trash on a trail, please do your part to help remove it. Remember, we are not picking up trash from another person but instead cleaning up for Mother Nature. Happy adventures!

**THE OLD CALIFORNIA THEATER IS A NO TRESPASSING ZONE**

Website

Update: Save Our Heritage Organisation and developers reached an agreement with the theater. Apparently it is going to be torn down and rebuilt using much of the original ornamentation and preserving as much as possible. The building has too much deterioration and carcinogenic asbestos to be saved as is.  Learn more here.

Photo courtesy of sandiegohistory.org

Photo courtesy of sandiegohistory.org

As of this writing, a drama is playing out in downtown San Diego. It involves the historic California Theater, and it pits preservationists against the proponents of redevelopment who over the last several decades have changed the face of the downtown area.

If the developers have their way, the old theater building will be torn down to make way for a 40-story tower containing 282 residential units and an additional 11,000 feet of retail space.

When it was completed in 1927 at a cost of $340,000, the theater was opulent and modern. The auditorium was five stories high and included a huge Wurlitzer organ to enhance the theater experience at a time when virtually all films were silent.

It had 2,200 seats, a wrap-around balcony, gold leaf ceilings, murals on walls and ornaments throughout. A women’s apparel store occupied one floor of the building and office space filled out the rest.

By the mid 1970s more modern theaters and multiplexes were beginning to crowd out venues like the California Theater, and it began to be used more for shows and special events.

When the Old Globe Theater was destroyed by an arson fire in 1978, the California Theater was used in its stead until the Old Globe was rebuilt. But declining business meant less money for maintenance and the theater began to look dated and shabby.

In 1988 a renovation was undertaken that restored much of its original luster, but the owner defaulted on loan payments and the building was finally shuttered in 1990.

In the nearly three decades since then the building has continued its decline. A local church rescued the organ in before an arson fire damaged the interior, but time has been no friend to the structure. A leaky roof has led to water damage, and rodents and other vermin abound.

Before it was fenced off squatters used the building. In its depleted condition, renovation costs have become prohibitive, estimated by the London Group to be as much as $40 million.

With the political and economic forces aligned against it, the future of the theater looks bleak. In April of 2017, the San Diego City Council unanimously voted to raze the building but the theater has a remaining effective local advocate in the Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO).

In response to a legal challenged by SOHO, Superior Court Judge Joel Wohlfeil set aside the demolition order on March 5, 2018, so the drama continues. Stay tuned

Photos by Hayden Stone:

"Notice & Agreement For Release of Liability":

Photos by Matt O'Neill:

 

Subscribe to our E-mail Newsletter

0.0

18 Reviews

Rating 0
Overall Rating 0
Difficulty Finding 0

18 Reviews

Comments

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    This is amazing! Too bad they can’t restore it or save it somehow.

    October 11, 2018

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    How does someone go in?

    October 15, 2018

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    WOW

    October 31, 2018

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    I remember going inside about 10 years ago. Right across the street from the public bathrooms there used to be a rope connected to a ladder that you had to shimmy up in order to get to the roof. Once you get on the roof you can enter through a broken window.

    December 13, 2018

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    I was one of the ones who squatted inside back in 2000. Place was creepy as hell but also beautiful.

    January 2, 2019

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    It seems one of the most recent ways to get inside has been blocked off by metal bars. Gonna have to find a whole new way to get in.

    January 20, 2019

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    If anyone finds a way un, let me know. I’m definitely on board for exploring the place.

    February 25, 2019

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    Add me on! If anyone knows a current way in, please get in touch.

    May 8, 2019

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    Trying to go here,

    Someone let me in on the secrets please

    June 7, 2019

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    I saw Devo and Pat Benitar there in the 80’s…super fun!

    August 1, 2019

  • David Norman
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    Very sad if it’s lost, they don’t make em like this anymore…

    We saw Pat Travers & Cheap trick perform there back in the late 70s, very cool building and I think it’s still saveable.

    If I were a billionaire I’d spend the money and restore it.

    August 3, 2019

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    This is why San Diego will always be a second class city. Too many stupid people.

    August 30, 2019

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    @Anonymous, I performed cheap tricks there

    August 30, 2019

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    I saw Cheap Trick there in 1976

    August 30, 2019

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    I saw a few shows there, that place was a cool venue for shows.

    Stryper & Bible Black in 85,

    Saxon & Armored Saint in 86,

    W.A.S.P. & Saxon 86 or 87

    September 7, 2019

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    @Anonymous,

    there’s a lot of exposed asbestos. Need to go in with proper masks etc that’s why it’s not easy to get in & the developers have security now.

    January 24, 2020

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    the new construction should include a theater which does a retro design which resembles the original

    January 29, 2020

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    save our heritage needs to realize that heritage can be saved when historical designs are reproduced with new materials

    January 29, 2020

Write a Review

In order for the map functionality to be enabled please input the Google Map API key in the General section of the UrbanGo Options

Contact info

1122 Fourth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101, USA

Register

Have an account?