SANTA MARIA - As the City of Lompoc considers spending public funds to save and restore the historic Lompoc Theater, preservationists say its money well spent while others don't agree.
Some in a neighboring city regret losing their historic downtown theater to the wrecking ball decades ago.
50 years ago downtown Santa Maria had a different look and feel.
"It was nice and quiet and friendly", says Santa Maria native Bob Ontiveros who owns Bricks Cafe, one of the few remaining storefronts from the old downtown.
Ontiveros keeps a black and white photo of the old Santa Maria Theater hanging in the hallway of his popular restaurant.
"I remember walking to the theater, trying to sneak in and getting chased out", Ontiveros says about the his childhood days growing up in the old downtown.
Amid a shopping mall boom that swept the nation in the late 1960's and 70's, then Santa Maria city leaders decided to bulldoze most of the old downtown to make way for what is now the Town Center Mall complex.
"I don't know what they were thinking in those days", says Santa Maria native and former mayor Larry Lavagnino", I find it hard to believe that I would have voted to knock down 9 square blocks of the historic part of downtown Santa Maria, I just would not have done that, ever, especially the old Santa Maria Theater, I just cannot imagine why anyone would have wanted to tear the down."
Lavagnino sympathizes with efforts in Lompoc and in San Luis Obispo to save its historic theaters and other older buildings from demolition.
"When you look at those other cities where they have renovated their downtowns that's the big thing, going back to the past for the future", Lavagnino says, "we had so many beautiful buildings back then were basically taken down by the wrecking ball."
Many point to downtown Santa Barbara and its success in saving and preserving the historic Lobero, Granada and Arlington Theaters.
Wednesday, June 5 2013 5:40 PM EDT2013-06-05 21:40:27 GMT
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