Community pushback over Corte Madera theater leads to moratorium

Jacob Olson

The Corte Madera Town Council unanimously voted to institute a temporary prohibition on new building approvals on the Century Cinema theater on Tuesday, Oct. 7.

Stuart Gruendl, CEO of BayRock Multifamily, recently reached out to the community with his idea of replacing the Century Cinema theater in Corte Madera with 31 housing units.

“My understanding is that there was a lot of pushback expressed by the community of what he wants to do there,” said Diane Furst, a member of the Corte Madera Town Council.

Corte Madera's Century Cinema theater is located on Tamal Vista Boulevard. The Corte Madera Town Council issued a moratorium on building approvals at the location of the theater after the community expressed concerns about a developer's idea to turn the site into housing units.
Corte Madera’s Century Cinema theater is located on Tamal Vista Boulevard. The Corte Madera Town Council issued a moratorium on building approvals at the location of the theater after the community expressed concerns about a developer’s idea to turn the site into housing units.

Since 1969, the Century Cinema theater in Corte Madera has served the people of Marin with popular movies, candy, and popcorn.

No formal proposal has been made to the town council for the housing development that may replace the movie theater, according to Furst.

If Gruendl were to send in an application, it would have to be reviewed by the staff, then sent to a planning commission, after which it would be sent to the town council for approval, according to Furst.

“According to law, [the temporary prohibition] will be in place for 45 days unless the council votes to extend it. Maximum length of moratorium is two years. During this time, the council will implement policies to designate what uses we will allow in that area,” Furst wrote in an email.

Furst also says that during the council meeting, Gruendl’s attorney was the only person of a crowd of 70 people who opposed a moratorium.

Between 2007 and 2014, the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) mandated a quota for housing units in Corte Madera, stating that 244 housing units were to be built within that time period. Later in 2012, they admitted that their numbers were miscalculated but that it was too late to change them once more, making it so that the housing quota remained at 244.

Now, between 2015 and 2023, the quota is less than a third of the last period’s quota, sitting at only 72.

“72 is a much more appropriate figure for a small town such as Corte Madera,” Furst said.

Corte Madera is only 4.405 square miles, and only 2.7 square miles of that is solid ground that can be built on, most of which has already been developed.

According to Furst, the Corte Madera Town Council does not need to identify any new parcels (a distinct, continuous portion or tract of land) to fit the requirements for the time period of 2015 to 2023.