Dec. 7 2011 12:00 AM

Outdated zoning rules might cost the local performance group their new home

technomaniacircus
Nick Slavicek, Valerie Power andBruce Cartier
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

A local performance group lost one location; now outdated zoning rules could force it out of another venue (click here for an update on this story.

In July, Technomania Circus, an eclectic band of artists and performers that, for six years, staged circus shows in the backyard of a house on Commercial Street in Barrio Logan, got visits from the Fire Department and Neighborhood Code Compliance.

“Apparently, backyard circus is not allowed in San Diego,” said Bruce Cartier, who goes by Dr. Techno and helped start the troupe in 1999.---

The crew quickly found a new location, an old theater building at 2558 Imperial Ave. in Logan Heights. They called it Victory Theater—a reference to its name in the 1920s—and put on their first show in early August.

The building needed a considerable amount of work, though, and since opening Victory Theater, they've spent more time refurbishing and cleaning than rehearsing and performing. To help cover overhead, they've been renting out the space to other performance, music and theater groups and trying to hold at least one show per month, including Sunday puppet shows for neighborhood kids (next up is a holiday-themed production geared toward adults at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10).

At last Sunday's puppet show, a woman from the neighborhood sat and waited for the first act with two of her grandkids.

“I never even knew this building was here,” she said, “and I've lived here for 25 years.”

The building was a movie theater from the 1920s through the 1950s. In 1958, it served as a church and remained so until a few years ago. The building then sat vacant until Technomania signed a lease.

Wanting things to be aboveboard this time, Technomania recently applied for a business license and chose “theater” from a list of options. Days later, they received an email from the city saying the location, which is part of a redevelopment area under the jurisdiction of the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., wasn't zoned for a theater. They were advised to apply for two special permits, estimated to cost $8,600 each.

Currently in the process of applying for nonprofit status so they can supplement their income with grants and donations, the Technomania Circus folks say they can't afford $17,200 in permitting costs. They've turned to community leaders, including Councilmember David Alvarez, for help.

“The problem obviously has to do with the outdated community plan,” Alvarez said. “Back in '87 was the last time it was updated. We've seen a couple of complications.”

Alvarez cited a recent issue with a recycling facility in a location that isn't zoned for light industrial, as well as Latte Mi Corazon, a coffeehouse that was shut down because it was in a spot that isn't zoned for commercial use. He said the solution is an updated community plan.

“You're seeing these problems pop up more and more because of the antiquated community plans,” Alvarez said.

“The needs of the community are changing all the time, and we've got a plan that hasn't been updated for 24 years now. It's out of date and out of touch with reality.”

The Southeastern San Diego Community Plan is in the early stages of being updated. However, it isn't expected to be finished for several years, which means Technomania Circus must come up with the money, find a workaround or move out.

“We're trying to figure out exactly what they need to do at this point,” Alvarez said.

The group doesn't plan to close the curtain.

“But I have this really insecure feeling,” Technomania performer Valerie Power said. “It seems like no matter which way you try to go, there are roadblocks. I feel like we're doing something wrong, but we're not.”

“We're just putting on circus shows,” performer Nick Slavicek added.

Calendar

  • Visit one of the 70 participating restaurants, bars, coffeehouses and nightclubs in town on this night and 25 to 50 percent of sales will go to local HIV/AIDS services and prevention programs. 
  • Anthony Bernal and Chris Ward, who are vying to replace Todd Gloria on the San Diego City Council, will discuss urban issues, such as parking, homelessness and new developments
  • The new exhibition designed by Dave Ghilarducci is made from hundreds of rolls of packing tape and bound together by layers of plastic shrink-wrap. Visitors can navigate their way through cocoon-like passageways...
  • The renowned Mexican black and white photographer presents an exhibition exploring the principal themes within three groups: "Bestiarium"," Fantastic Women" and "Silent Natures."
  • Presented by Pacific Arts Movement, the sixth annual mini film fest features 14 film programs from 10 countries that includes everything from docs to romantic tearjerkers. See website for full lineup and...
  • The San Diego County Bike Coalition hosts this monthly bike-in happy hour event to get biking residents involved in their communities and discuss bike projects planned for that specific community
  • Debunk some of the stereotypes surrounding cannibalism at this new exhibition that takes a hands-on approach to the subject. Includes video games and interactive activities where patrons will have to decide...
  • So Say We All's monthly storytelling night features stories about those jobs we took because we had to take a job. Featured readers include Allison Gauss, Annmarie Houghtailing, Cecile Estelle, and more
  • Artists from the all-abstracts group show will talk about their work and techniques. Artists include Edwin Nutting, Danielle Nelisse, Leah Pantea, Lenore Simon, and more
See all events on Thursday, Apr 28