Rialto Theatre | Uncertain Future as City Council Pressed for Answers

Resident Jan Marshall brought her frustration about the dilapidated condition of the theater on Fair Oaks Avenue to a South Pasadena City Council meeting, asking when improvements will be made

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | The historic Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena on Fair Oaks Ave

Jan Marshall lives on Oxley Street in South Pasadena “right down from the disintegrating Rialto Theater,” she told City Council members recently, urging for improvements to the aging structure that has been an eyesore on Fair Oaks Avenue for years.

Marshall dug up old information about the theater from 2015 news reports when the Rialto was sold to Izek Shomof, who reportedly indicated: “Renovation of South Pasadena’s iconic Rialto Theatre will begin as early as next month,” she said, reading from a collection of notes in her possession during a recent council meeting.

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | Resident Jan Marshall came to a recent South Pasadena City Council meeting inquiring about the status of the Rialto Theatre

Claiming she walks by the theater nearly every day, Marshall wonders, “What is happening?” she asked, before answering her own question. “Nothing.”

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Marshall wants the exterior of the theatre renovated like she thought was going to happen four years ago.

Mosaic, a church conducting Sunday services at the site, is the current lone major tenant and has looked into soon conducting its business at South Pasadena Middle School. Some improvements to the interior of the building, constructed in 1925, have been made as a result of Mosaic’s occupancy.

“Is it Mosaic’s job (to make the improvements), the owners?” Marshall asked councilmembers as part of public comment during the mid September council meeting.

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | The historical Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena on Fair Oaks Ave

Going online, she did her own research, reading about Shomof in news reports, before making the assertion, “He sounds like a decent person,” she told the council. Marshall detailed some of the developer’s accomplishments, noting he “has done numerous things downtown (LA),” including transforming the historic Sears Tower in Boyle Heights into new stores, restaurants and living quarters.

He also purchased, according to Marshall, four hotels to renovate portions of Skid Row, and bought the Airport Park View Hotel in Inglewood to make improvements there as the Rams and Chargers prepare to start play in 2020. Incidentally, the hotel has been closed permanently.

“There seems to be no shortage of money,” said Marshall of Shomof’s expenditures, as she went through a stack of papers at the podium detailing his background.

“Here’s a direct quote from the LA Times (in 2015),” Marshall continued, saying Shomof said in the publication: ‘We’re planning to renovate the exterior as soon as possible, within a month or two, but with the interior we’re negotiating with possible tenants. I know the residents will enjoy looking at it better than what it is now – within the next six months. Right now it is an eyesore and it looks like it hasn’t seen a new coat of paint in the last 50 years or so.’”

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | South Pasadena City Coucilmember, Michael Cacciotti

With 2019 soon coming to a close, Marshall, raising her voice, declared to the City Council, “Nothing has been done to the exterior of this building and I’m wondering what the city has to do with this? I just don’t think they [Rialto ownership] are acting in good faith. I don’t know what happened, who dropped the ball?”

Prior the council meeting, Marshall expressed her concern about the dilapidated condition of the theater to Michael Cacciotti, publicly thanking the councilman for reaching out to her.

Following the woman’s comments, Cacciotti asked City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe to look into the matter and provide a response regarding the status of the theater.

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | Stephanie DeWolfe, South Pasadena City Manager

“Things are in flux with that building at the moment,” DeWolfe replied. “I’m not at liberty to comment because things are still changing, but as soon as I have a more comprehensive answer I’d be more than happy to share it with council.”