When the San Jose City Council recently approved the annexation of the Burbank Theater, several opportunities suddenly arose for the geographic landmark on Bascom Avenue. Of course, a possible fate – it can be broken down for a completely new development.
So the Preservation Action Council launched a petition to encourage the city to designate the Art Moderne theater, originally built in 1949, as a city historic landmark. You can get more information and add your name to the petition at www.preservation.org/burbank.
“The theater is a litmus test of what gives a city character,” said Ben Leech, executive director of PAC-SJ. “There’s going to be someone who says, ‘That ugly thing, there’s nothing historical about it. Tear it off.’ But I happen to think it’s buildings like this that make a place interesting, even when they’re empty.”
In its nearly 75-year history, the Burbank has been an arthouse movie theater, porn theater, and home to a dance studio. Former Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager, representing the unincorporated Burbank area, pushed for it to be added to the county’s Heritage Resource Inventory in hopes that the marquee and three-sided sign could be preserved and restored. The building was sold at auction for $1.6 million in late 2021, and the new owners are reportedly considering a bid to purchase the property for more than $3 million.
The annexation won’t be official until the county’s Local Area Formation Committee confirms it, and there’s an interesting wrinkle that could delay its status as a city landmark. The resolution approved by the council states that the city reserves the right not to apply for certification until a development proposal for the site has been submitted or approved. There isn’t one currently, so the city could leave the Burbank in limbo until there is one — though no one in the city has said that right will be exercised.
A challenge in repurposing or redeveloping the theater site had been the lack of available parking, but annexing it to San Jose would solve that due to the city’s recent elimination of minimum parking requirements. Leech said while PAC-SJ – which supported the annexation – sees the potential for reusing the auditorium as a community meeting place, the group is open to restoring and creatively reusing the space.
“Annexation to the city must be accompanied by the recognition that this is a historical resource. What we think this will do is it will telegraph to the development community that this isn’t just a demolition site, and that doesn’t mean it should stay completely as it is,” Leech said. saving an eye, we’re saving a potential catalyst for revitalizing that area for the city, and I don’t think we’re alone.”
Indeed, Alex Shoor – executive director of Catalyze SV, a non-profit organization that advocates for smart development – also spoke out in favor of the annexation at the city council meeting and expressed his organization’s interest in being part of any community engagement process.
“Too often in San Jose we lose hope and say this is all going to be paved or this has to go,” said Shoor, who often checked the building when he worked in Yeager’s office, “and I think there’s a real opportunity for this site to once again become a vibrant new place that balances the future and economic development with the celebration of the past.”
If both the Preservation Action Council and Catalyze SV are on the same side of an issue, it’s probably worth looking twice.
ROBOTS, ROBOTS EVERYWHERE: It’s National Robotics Week and I was hoping to make a joke about that, but ChatGPT isn’t helping. Instead, I’ll let you know that InOrbit Robot Space in Mountain View is hosting a number of public events to celebrate and break the mystery of modern day robots working together with society.
Activities include a Monday visit with competitors going head-to-head at the 15th Annual RoboGames, taking place this weekend at the Alameda County Fairgrounds; a demo of a 3D printing system; and Thursday a panel discussion on generative AI hosted by the Silicon Valley Chapter of Berkeley Haas Alumni Network. With the exception of the panel discussion, you can simply come by for free for the events at 293 Castro Street. Check the schedule at www.inorbit.ai/robotspace/community.
SUPPORT NET: Like everyone else in the Bay Area media, I was devastated when I heard about retired KCBS radio reporter Mike Colgan, who was paralyzed after a fall near his home in Arizona in early March. To me, seeing Colgan at an event with his microphone and recorder was a reassuring sign. But others, such as retired KGO-TV journalist Rigo Chacon, said they don’t see him as a competitor.
“When I think of Mike Colgan, I don’t necessarily think of the Bay Area Hall of Fame man,” Chacon said. “I think especially of my best friend Mike Colgan. Lately I’ve been thinking about the horrific medical challenge he faces.
More than $33,000 has been raised through GoFundMe to date (www.gofundme.com/f/rally-for-mike-colgan) to help cover Colgan’s medical expenses.
IN THE CITY: There’s plenty of entertainment this weekend at Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose, including Latin Grammy-nominated alt-rockers Making Movies headlining “Colour Me GOLD,” a family-friendly concert and market, on Sunday. The lineup also includes Mexican-American singer Irene Diaz and East San Jose poet Yosmiar Reyes, who will be reciting poems for each act. Doors open at 3pm with a Black and Brown Vendor Market. The music starts at 5 p.m. in the 500-seat theater on the square.
Producer Jonathan Borca said general admission tickets cost just $10 to make the event accessible, but higher price tiers include early seat access and VIP meet-and-greets. Tickets are available at www.schoolofartsandculture.org/events/colourmegold.