March 21, 1990
By Yolanda Reynolds
The Studio Theater is to remain at its current location. The San Jose Mayor and the
City Council acting as the Redevelopment Agency Board voted unanimously to abandon their plans to give the Studio to San Jose Repertory Theater.
The Mayor and the Vice-Mayor announced the change in their plans regarding the Studio under heavy community and arts groups presented themselves at the Council Chambers.
The Council Chamber was given a colorful atmosphere with the many citizens wearing yellow ribbon bands in a show of support for the Spanish language theater in downtown San Jose.
Sandra Cárdenas, manager and co-owner of the Spanish language theater thanked the community for their support and the media for bringing the Mayor’s plan to the attention of the general public.
Don Houston, one of the Studio movie theater partners, strongly questioned the City’s use of eminent domain to take the private property of one individual and give it to another private party and then to even propose giving them three and half million dollars of taxpayer money as well.
The Studio issue struck a raw nerve in the community. The multi-cultural arts groups have in recent years become more and more restive with the inequity they say exists in City support of the arts.
The multi-cultural arts groups receive approximately four percent of the money the City gives to the arts. The groups that receive most of the City’s funds are the main line” arts groups such as, The Opera, The Symphony, The Repertory Theater and Ballet.
Felix Alvarez, Executive Director of the Multi-Cultural Arts Action Groups (MAAG) gave a detailed summary of the status and treatment of the multi-cultural groups in the City. He pointed out that like any business, irregular hours, uncertain locations and inadequate facilities prevent these groups from growth or even an opportunity to demonstrate their talents.
There were many impassioned speakers. Contrary to the Mayor’s usual way of cutting discussion short, no speaker was interrupted or told that they had run out of time to speak.
Several speakers addressed the impression expressed in the Mayor’s memo and a Mercury News editorial indicating that the Spanish language communities’ protest was short sighted as well as an unnecessary source of conflict with other arts groups particularly, the Repertory Theater. The speakers said the protest instead had to do with the multi-cultural communities’ quest for equity – a right of every citizen in the City.
Olga Enciso Smith of Machu Picchu, a commercial gallery, in downtown San Jose spoke to the plight of the small business persons in downtown San Jose. She said that City support for small businesses in downtown San Jose was so meager that doing business there was really a nonprofit endeavor. She expressed the sentiment of many who feel that downtown San Jose “lacks soul” as well as the products and services that would bring them there to shop, seek entertainment or do business.
During the afternoon session, speakers suggested a number of ethnic oriented projects. These include a major Multi-Cultural Performing Arts Center and a Centro Cultural de la Americas that would include the arts of indigenous cultures.
Kathy Napoli, spokesperson of the newly formed group, The Coalition for the Preservation of Hispanic Heritage Downtown, pointed out that the City’s Redevelopment program has resulted in discriminatory action towards a number of groups in the city – primarily the elderly, the small business persons and Hispanics.
Napoli explained to the Council that silence to unfair actions on their part was in fact the kind of silence that caused the loss of lives to the Holocaust in Germany, the encampment of Japanese families during World War II and the mistreatment of ethnic groups throughout our nations’ past. “Silence in these instances, she said, is in fact a form of discrimination.”
“Ya Basta,” Napoli said. To the Mayor she said, “you speak of bringing pride and self respect to the City’s youth but, this will only happen if you respect the parents of those children.”
Council Person Jimm Beall questioned a number of issues relative to process. He pointed out that a number of the city council members had not been informed of the Studio. Beall questioned the redevelopment staff involvement in attempting to acquire property on behalf of the City without prior Council. The Agency is reported to have begun attempting acquisition of the Studio 18 months ago.
Beall requested that these procedural issues be placed in the agenda for discussion at the next Board meeting.
Vice Mayor Alvarado has called for a community meeting to discuss her proposal that recommends a variety of projects such as a Mexican Museum. Meeting is scheduled to take place Thursday, March 22, 6:30 p.m. at Mother Olsens Inn, 72 No. First Street.