Forejour – Foreigner Journey Tribute:
Moraga Commons Park
Thursday, June 25th, 2015
6:30pm – 8:30pm | Free
You are invited to join your neighbors on Thursday evenings at the Moraga Commons Park for a relaxing free concert in the park. Bring your picnic blanket or lawn chairs to the grassy hillside in front of the band shell. Enjoy the music while your children enjoy the park. The volunteers of the Moraga Park and Recreation Foundation will even cook dinner for you with the Snack Bar opening at 6:00 pm.
350 Park St, Moraga
At the beginning of the month we learned that Rheem Theatre would be closing due to a 60% increase in rent, partly in response to Moraga passing a historical preservation ordinance. However, a Go Fund Me Save the Rheem Theatre page was established which raised over $5,000 and announced, “the New Rheem Theatre will be operating for another 60 days to give time for the formation of a new nonprofit foundation within the Moraga community”.
According to the Town of Moraga website:
the community expressed overwhelming support to keep The New Rheem Theatre operating as a theatre. With a generous and cooperative spirit, the property owner and operator agreed to continue the Theatre’s current operations to allow time for all parties to resolve several key issues, including: terms to prevent the building from being demolished; a process to quickly work with the property owner, as the Town does with others, to determine appropriate development options for the remainder of his property absent an historic designation for the Theatre; and the formation of a Community Foundation to assist with funding for the Theatre.
According to this Lamorinda Weekly article, the long term vision would not have a historic preservation ordinance. “While the property owner can develop other areas of the property, Puri agreed not to demolish the theater building, so the need for the ordinance goes away, she [Town Manager Jill Keimach] said.”
What’s not clear to me is how does the property owner agreeing to not demolish the building mean there is no need for a historical preservation ordinance? It seems like a reasonable possibility that while the property owner remains the same, the rent will remain low, and when it’s eventually sold without a historical preservation ordinance, the new owner will tear down the theater for redevelopment. Or will the Moraga community foundation be able to raise enough money to purchase the property to preserve it as a movie theater?
Last November we learned that a new home development featuring “26 high-end single family homes” called Harvest Court was coming to Moraga off Camino Ricardo and construction has begun in earnest with residents noting the massive lines of trucks clogging roadways hauling dirt away. The new completion date is “early 2016″ according to the project website.
376 Park St, Moraga
In March we learned that a new restaurant called Graze would be replacing Shish Kabab Show in the Rheem Valley Shopping Center in Moraga and Graze has now opened. For now they will be open for lunch Wednesdays through Saturdays and after July 4th they will also open for dinner, noon through 8pm. The owners used to have a restaurant called PAU in Hawaii serving the same dishes (besides the pizza), using fresh, local ingredients. Check out their lunch menu here and drinks menu here. Beer and wine will be available.
Kids Day Special Olympics Fundraiser:
350 Park St, Moraga
Sunday, June 14th, 2015
10:30am – 2:00pm | $5 (movie)
The event is sponsored by the Moraga Police Officers Association and is a “Kids Day” that consists of a special screening of a kids movie at the New Rheem Theatre in Moraga, followed by a festival of fun activities outside (staffed by Moraga Police Officers) that includes a bounce house, carnival games, face painting, and more. The event will take place on 6/14/15 with the movie at 10:30am, followed by the festival from 12pm-2pm. All of the proceeds go to Special Olympics Northern California
489 Moraga Road, Moraga
Plenty of residential development going on in Moraga these days. Last year we saw the story poles, and now we see that a new 18 single family home development called Via Moraga is coming to downtown Moraga, directly across from the Rheem Shopping Center. Lot sizes will range from 2,610 – 4,123 square feet with house sizes varying 2,066 to 2,568 square feet. The 2-story houses will reach a bit less than 28 feet high. Check out the developer website here.
Of all the places in Moraga, being located across from a shopping center and next to commercial buildings seems to be an ideal spot for condos. Why are single family houses being built instead?
Via Moraga rendering
350 Park St, Moraga
At a packed and occasionally boisterous informational meeting on the impending closure of the Rheem Theatre in Moraga on Saturday, the operator of the theater, Derek Zemrak, provided the lowdown on the lack of support from Moraga throughout the years culminating in the approval of a controversial historic preservation law in February that, “helps enable preservation of buildings or other specific objects “linked” to Moraga’s past that are at least 50 years old, in most cases” and doesn’t require approval from the property owner.
Some examples of the lack of support from the town that the operator mentioned:
- Only one town council member is current California Independent Film Festival (CAIFF) member
- $60,000 relief for basketball game in theater cancelled with no response from town
- No town officials present at Classic Film Hall of Fame inaugural event
- Town officials generally not present at other popular events such as SciFi Day
- Town passed historical preservation ordinance despite request not to
You may be wondering, as I did, why the Rheem Theatre operator is opposed to a law that mandates the preservation of Rheem Theatre. Apparently, the owner of the property, Mahesh Puri, who rented the theater at below market rates, in this case, $5,000 per month for several years, is not pleased about the new law which will lower the value of the property and decided to no longer subsidize the rent for the Rheem Theatre. Had the historical preservation ordinance not been passed it would be likely that the $5,000 rent (or a reasonable 10-15% increase) would have been maintained, thus allowing the Rheem Theatre to continue operations.
Imagine that the historical preservation ordinance is revoked at the June 10th town council meeting. In response, the property owner lowers the monthly rent back down to $5,000. What is the likelihood that 5 or 10 years down the road the property gets sold and the theater is demolished to make room for condos or new stores like what happened to the Pleasant Hill Dome theater?
Can Moraga buy the property and run it as a non-profit? What do you think should be done?
350 Park St, Moraga
Prominently proclaimed on the Rheem Theatre marquee in Moraga is notice that due to a 60% increase in rent the theater will be “forced to close soon”. The expected closing date is within 30 days.
From their Facebook page:
We are very sad to report that today we received a 60% rent increase from the landlord. We can not afford such an increase and will be forced to close soon. We were given a 30 day notice. Thank you all for the happy memories over the past 5 years, the joy, the laughs and now the tears!
Note that this property is owned separately from the Rheem Shopping Center a few stores down. It looks like the popularity of the Century Theater in Walnut Creek has caused a drop in attendance. What are the possible reasons why the landlord is raising rent? Do they want to force the city to buy the parcel in order to save the theater? Thanks to those who sent word about the closing.
Photos of the inside after the jump…