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Quality of Life

San Diego City Council OKs Redevelopment Of Historic Downtown Theater

The vacant California Theatre building is seen here in downtown San Diego, April 26, 2021.
Matthew Bowler
The vacant California Theatre building is seen here in downtown San Diego, April 26, 2021.
San Diego City Council OKs Redevelopment Of Historic Downtown Theater
Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday voted to approve the redevelopment of the decaying downtown California Theatre building — which has been vacant since 1990 — into a new high rise featuring a reconstruction of its historic facade.

The 41-story project at 1122 Fourth Ave. is being developed by the Australia-based firm Caydon. It includes 336 condominiums, 190 hotel rooms, 3,686 square feet of retail and commercial space and 194 underground parking spaces.

RELATED: The Plight of the Historic California Theatre

San Diego City Council OKs Redevelopment Of Historic Downtown Theater

The project was approved by the San Diego Planning Commission in February, but the hotel workers union UNITE HERE Local 30 appealed that decision to the City Council. Union organizer Rick Bates said the seven affordable units included in the project were insufficient considering the site is right next to a trolley stop.

"The opportunity for housing development this close to transit is extremely limited," Bates said. "We believe that working families who rely on public transit should have a greater stake than seven affordable units out of 336 market-rate condos."

Councilmembers had already approved an earlier version of the project in 2017, but that approval became mired in a lawsuit filed by historic preservation group Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO). The two sides ultimately reached a settlement that included the recreation of three of the building's facades.

An artist's rendering shows the redeveloped California Theatre facade.
Caydon Property Group
An artist's rendering shows the redeveloped California Theatre facade.

But the concessions to historic preservationists, which the developer estimates will cost $30 million, also resulted in fewer affordable homes included in the project — down from 22 to seven.

Councilmember Stephen Whitburn, whose district includes downtown, said he wished the project had more affordable housing, but that the project's pros outweighed those concerns.

"It provides much-needed investment and improvements to our C Street corridor," Whitburn said. "It'll activate and revitalize this downtown transit corridor that is used by our city employees, by our local workforce, downtown residents and visitors to our great city."