Theatre Needs County's Help
The Daily Review
Wednesday September 22, 1999 Editorial
THESPIANS and critters make strange bedfellows.
So it's not surprising that talks over turning the Lorenzo Theatre into an animal clinic are going to the dogs.
That's unfortunate because restoring the 52-year-old Hesperian Boulevard theater would add a sparkle to San Lorenzo's push to revive the nearby Village Square and Lorenzo Plaza shopping areas.
The community needs the county to take center stage in this unfolding drama and orchestrate a happier ending. Today, the county plans to consider approving veterinarian Dharam Salwan's clinic application, even though Salwan and the nonprofit Lorenzo Theater Association can't agree on how the association would take over the building down the road.
We're glad the county plans to require Salwan to preserve aspects of the property, especially the indoor murals and exterior art deco features, but it's disturbing that a use permit is probably going to be granted without any resolution to the negotiations between Salwan and the theatre group.
So what happens to the theatre when the use permit expires in 2002 if the two can't agree?
The county should recognize that it's in San Lorenzo's best interests if the building's future is on firmer ground before Salwan moves forward with the clinic, which would be operated by his son.
We'd like to know for sure that the theater will become an entertainment center rather than just a vet clinic with advertising instead of star billing on the old marquee.
It's also not surprising that Salwan is balking at the proposed deal with the theater association. His goals appear about as in sync with the association as a cat with a mouse.
Why would someone invest time and money into such an old building, only to sell it in five or 10 years as has been proposed?
Salwan wants to be reimbursed by the theater group for the building purchase price, construction of the clinic and reimbursement of bank interest.
If the theatre supporters have to pay those costs -- along with the costs of renovating the building -- the financial scenario becomes daunting.
Add to that some bad feelings among community members over Salwan's poor record with the state vet medical board. He was reprimanded in two separate animal negligence cases and remains on probation until 2001.
Again, the county is taking a backstage role, saying this issue is irrelevant.
Ideally, the theatre supporters could just buy the building tomorrow and escape this increasingly messy deal.
But there just don't appear to be any options. That's why the county's leadership is key.