Raymond Battle Appears Over

The 18-year battle for the Raymond Theatre in Pasadena is over, barring an unlikely appeal to the California Supreme Court, after a state appellate judge ruled in favor of developers and against preservationists November 7th.

Friends of the Raymond Theatre sued developer Gene Buchanan and Pasadena in 2002, claiming the city broke its own rules by approving a project to develop the Old Pasadena landmark, which was once the home of ’80s metal mainstay Perkins Palace, as housing and retail space.

Judge Dzintra Janaves ruled that city officials did follow procedures, as well as California Environmental Quality Act standards, in approving the redevelopment project, according to the Pasadena Star-News.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” Buchanan told the paper. “I was being very straightforward in saying the suit was meritless on virtually everything. I think this vindicates us a little bit. We’ve been saying all along we’ve been doing everything according to code and working with the city.”

It was a bitter blow for onetime concert promoter and venue manager Gina Zamparelli, founder of Friends of the Raymond Theatre.

“We worked very hard over the past 18 years to find justice for the theatre,” Zamparelli told the paper. “Despite the court ruling, there is no disputing the reason we lost the Raymond Theatre. It is because of the unfair actions and decisions made by both the city and the Buchanans,” she said.

“In the end, I don’t think 7,500 supporters would follow this project for 18 years and continue to donate and support our work if we were the ones lying to the public.”

Zamparelli said the group may appeal to the California Supreme Court, but no decisions have been made.

The Friends of the Raymond Theatre suit posed what was reportedly the most serious of several legal threats to the city and the Buchanans’ development plans, but the judge’s reportedly extensive favorable ruling could ultimately render future appeals unlikely.

Assistant City Attorney Frank Rhemrev told the Star-News that Janaves did a good job of analyzing a complex process during which the city tried to get a “decent project” for the Raymond.

“We found out it wasn’t feasible to maintain it as a live entertainment venue,” Rhemrev told the paper. “The next best thing was to maintain its historic fabric.”

Buchanan said the Raymond project will maintain as much of the original 1921 building as possible. According to the paper, about 45 percent of the interior including the auditorium, the lobby, mezzanine and facade is being preserved “at huge expense.”