Skip to content

Foreclosure sale of old Ocean Avenue movie house shocks neighbors

February 16, 2016

By J.K. Dineen : sfchronicle – excerpt

Nearly four decades after it was converted from a grand movie palace into a Pentecostal church, drama has returned to the El Rey Theater on Ocean Avenue.

Only this time the action isn’t on the silver screen but over the building itself.

In December, the El Rey changed hands for the first time since 1977, selling in a trustee sale on the steps of City Hall for $1.06 million. The seller was the Stanford Federal Credit Union, which had foreclosed on the property after the church, now called A Place to Meet Jesus, defaulted on a loan. The buyer was a joint venture between Ricci Ventures and Greenpoint Land Co., both Marin investment groups.

For residents in the surrounding neighborhoods of Ingleside Terraces, Mount Davidson Manor and Balboa Terrace — many of whom have long hoped the building would someday return to use as a community center or theater — the reaction has been a mix of disappointment and hope.

How is it that such an important historic property could be sold at City Hall without city officials becoming aware of the opportunity? Who are the new owners, and what are their plans for the El Rey? Is this at long last an opportunity to designate the building a historic landmark, something the church would never agree to?…

Assessing building’s future

Ironically, in the months before the building sold, Mayor Ed Lee’s administration targeted the El Rey as part of a new “neighborhood asset activation” program aimed at reviving vacant or underutilized structures. The city has retained consultants to do an assessment of the physical structure, engage with the owners, and hear from the community about what it would like to see there. In addition to the El Rey, the city is looking at six other defunct theaters, a mosque and the Geneva Car Barn…

By J.K. Dineen
February 15, 2016 Updated: February 15, 2016 7:20pm

6

Teacher and artist Alexis Orth works inside the A Place to Meet Jesus church at the old El Rey Theater on Ocean Avenue. The building was sold after a loan default, but the church insists it’s not leaving. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle

Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle
Image 1 of 6
Teacher and artist Alexis Orth works inside the A Place to Meet Jesus church at the old El Rey Theater on Ocean Avenue. The building was sold after a loan default, but the church insists it’s not leaving.

Nearly four decades after it was converted from a grand movie palace into a Pentecostal church, drama has returned to the El Rey Theater on Ocean Avenue.

Only this time the action isn’t on the silver screen but over the building itself.

In December, the El Rey changed hands for the first time since 1977, selling in a trustee sale on the steps of City Hall for $1.06 million. The seller was the Stanford Federal Credit Union, which had foreclosed on the property after the church, now called A Place to Meet Jesus, defaulted on a loan. The buyer was a joint venture between Ricci Ventures and Greenpoint Land Co., both Marin investment groups.

For residents in the surrounding neighborhoods of Ingleside Terraces, Mount Davidson Manor and Balboa Terrace — many of whom have long hoped the building would someday return to use as a community center or theater — the reaction has been a mix of disappointment and hope.

How is it that such an important historic property could be sold at City Hall without city officials becoming aware of the opportunity? Who are the new owners, and what are their plans for the El Rey? Is this at long last an opportunity to designate the building a historic landmark, something the church would never agree to?
The neighborhood landmark has been occupied by a church for about 40 years. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle
Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle
The neighborhood landmark has been occupied by a church for about 40 years.

Dan Weaver, director of the Ocean Avenue Association, was flabbergasted when he found out about the sale last month.

“After I got over the shock that the building had been sold to someone I didn’t know, my first thought was that for the first time in 38 years we have the opportunity to landmark the building,” he said.

Anita Theoharis, a former planning commissioner who has long fought to revive Ocean Avenue, said she was disappointed that city officials were “apparently missing in action” at the time of the trustee sale.

Assessing building’s future

Ironically, in the months before the building sold, Mayor Ed Lee’s administration targeted the El Rey as part of a new “neighborhood asset activation” program aimed at reviving vacant or underutilized structures. The city has retained consultants to do an assessment of the physical structure, engage with the owners, and hear from the community about what it would like to see there. In addition to the El Rey, the city is looking at six other defunct theaters, a mosque and the Geneva Car Barn.

“There are certain places that mean a lot to people in the neighborhood, and this is one of these places,” said Joaquin Torres, director of the mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services. “We’re looking at what the current ownership would be interested in allowing us to pursue.”

In California, a building that serves as a church cannot be designated as historic unless the church agrees to the designation… (more)

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: