The Dome Effect: Pleasant Hill to consider enacting commission to manage historical and cultural resources


Critics of the effort to Save the Pleasant Hill Dome (shown here in photo by Nick Bever) enjoyed saying we were foolish trying to preserve this building, even though it had significant historical and cultural relevance to the East Bay community. Those critics called the Dome an “eyesore.” 

Critics also liked to point out that we were fighting a losing battle: no doubt, plans to redevelop the Contra Costa Shopping Center had been in the works for more than a decade, and those plans likely included demolishing the Cinearts Dome movie theater. 
Well, many of us Domers knew we were fighting an uphill battle, but we all believed we had to try. There was honor in trying to save a building  meant so much to so many people in the East Bay community. 
Of course, it was clear that city planners and elected officials had a somewhat cozy working relationship with SyWest Development — to the extent, I’m starting to hear, that they kinda, sorta mislead Dome proponents back in 2009 and 2010 about the process and the potential to stop SyWest’s train wreck of a development and bring forth other possibilities. It sounds like city leaders just didn’t want to hear about other ideas that would tempt them toff the SyWest train hurtling toward a landscape dominated by a giant Dick’s sign. 
That’s all disturbing and tragic, and now the Dome is gone.  And we’re gonna get a Dick’s — and we’ll have to pass this eyesore whenever traveling up and down Interestate 680.
But now, maybe the passion and momentum that emerged around saving the Dome will be channeled into a new effort, initiated by some city leaders and members of the Pleasant Hill Historical Society, to begin discussions about recognizing and protecting historical sources. 
The City Council is expected to begin these discussions at its regularly scheduled meeting Monday at 7:30 p.m. 
The city has had an ordinance in its municipal code [Chapter 18.45 Historic Districts and Cultural Resources Districts] since the 1990s allowing it to establish a Cultural Resources Management Commission. The specific purposes of this ordinance: 

Are to prevent neglect of historic or architecturally significant buildings, encourage public appreciation of the city’s past, foster civic and neighborhood pride, enhance property values and increase economic and financial benefits to the city, and encourage public participation in identifying and preserving historical and architectural resources. 

I don’t need to say how much the city fell down its its legally prescribed responsibilities–described above–with regard to the Dome.  
Anyway, this commission would be made up of an appointed body–people with professional expertise in creating a register of local cultural resources, doing what’s legally required to preserve those resources and investigating local, state, federal or private funding sources for maintaining those resources. 
As we all learned with the Dome debacle, the city never enacted the ordinance and set up the commission.  
Now the city wonders, according to Vice Mayor Jack Weir, if there is the political will to move forward with creating this commission. That’s the purpose of the item on Monday night’s City Council meeting, to test the waters on residents’ interest in creating and funding such a commission with these responsibilities. 
Back in the thick of the battle to save the Dome, members of historical society, which was defunct at the time, expressed hope to the San Francisco Chronicle that the Dome fight would galvanize residents to take the city’s past, its character and overall landscape a little more seriously. 

Dana Matthews of the Pleasant Hill Historical Society told the Chronicle that officials should try harder to save what’s unique about Pleasant Hill.


Meanwhile, the historical society started meeting again and organizing as the Dome was in its final days. They now hope to work at preserving other historical structures, monuments and artifacts of Pleasant Hill history, including Rodgers Ranch, an 1860s ranch house and wheat barn that had once belonged to local pioneers Patrick and Mary Ann Rodgers and the 1920s “Old Schoolhouse” at Oak Park Boulevard and Pleasant Hill Road. (The tapestry in the above photo, which features the Dome as one of Pleasant Hill’s landmarks, is on display in Rodgers Ranch.) 

Rodgers Ranch, actually, is in a lovely spot, hidden away in a subdivision at the end of Corsten Road off.  It has an urban farm and teaching garden, where it runs regular classes on growing herbs and tomatoes, irrigation and composting. 

Weir said at this past week’s historical society meeting that he also hopes this commission, in the spirit of the Dome’s role as a cultural venue, would take on the work of promoting cultural events in the city, including events around independent or alternative film. 

I can say we all underwent a big learning lesson in how we all need to pay much more attention to the workings of our local city governments. Yes, it’s hard. Our lives are already overloaded with work, family and other life responsibilities.
But it you care about maintaining the quality of life in your community — and if you care about preserving and promoting local resources that offer unique historical and cultural opportunities — don’t trust that the officials you elect to be guardians of these resources will fulfill that function.
Because, as we learned with the destruction of the Dome, it’s not hard for these paid and elected city leaders to have their heads by the promise of “progress” offered by companies like SyWest development. 

3 thoughts on “The Dome Effect: Pleasant Hill to consider enacting commission to manage historical and cultural resources

  1. I drive by the spot that was once the dome and I keep shaking my head 😦 They could have made that such a cultural destination if they had just cleaned it up and put a cool restaurant there or something.
    I really hope that they do try and do a better job of managing their history a bit better!

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  2. I also enjoy the vintage signs on a few Pleasant Hill businesses. That would make a nice topic someday. One sign happens to be a liquor store near the library. Even so, it is what keeps the charm in any city.

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