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Balboa Theatre Paint Job

Balboa Theatre in downtown San Diego
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  Historic Preservation

The historic Balboa Theatre, a city-owned landmark, was painstakingly restored inside and out in 2008. The $27M restoration was funded by the City of San Diego via CCDC and won many awards.

Inexplicably, the Balboa Theatre was just repainted a horrible, bland, non-historic color scheme that obscures the rich Spanish Baroque color palette that was carefully restored in 2008. The paint new scheme is not only wrong for this building, but is a mix of clashing colors: blinding white walls, battleship gray first floor and windows, raspberry ornament, and gold accents that clash with the historic tile dome and hunter green blade sign.

The result of this ill-conceived paint job is that the theater now looks almost exactly as it did from 1960-2007 when it was a mostly abandoned, run-down building, BEFORE it was so lovingly restored. Why return the theater to its bad old days?

This terrible paint scheme deserves a big smelly onion and needs to be reversed immediately.

A few recent Facebook comments about the color disaster:

  • “The City of San Diego spent $27 million to pull this building back from the brink and painstakingly restore it with exactitude. The theater is OWNED BY THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO. This is OUR building and it’s being desecrated at considerable expense …by who? With who’s money? Where was the decision made to paint this building with oddball crimson and white?”
  • “That is awful!”
  • “So much white !!! San Diego’s favorite colors – White and Grey.”
  • “The owner should have researched or looked up it’s documented original color and painted it as such.”
  • “We need to find out who did this and why… and keep them away from the interior.”
  • “Those renovations are terrible!”
  • “The new paint job make the Balboa look like it is in decline as it was in the 1960’s. A really bad job.”
  • “Hate the white. No warmth of color…bland and nondescript.”
  • “It’s plain ugly. It looks like what someone not versed in historic paint colors would pick. It’s Hicksville. Embarrassing.”

868 Fourth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

Project Owner/Developer:
City of San Diego & San Diego Theatres, Inc.

Contact Name/Email:
Carol Wallace, President & CEO info@sandiegotheatres.org

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  1. Terry Kirkpatrick

    There is nothing “historically accurate” about so-called Spanish Revival Style: it was all part of a 20th Century real estate scheme, to create a fantasy “golden age” of the Spanish Era. Why don’t we just let that faux style go?

    • David M.

      Spanish Revival is a recognized architectural style, especially in California, and it has been since at least 1915. It’s much more genuine and regionally appropriate than imported styles like Craftsman or Classical Revival. I guess Balboa Park and Santa Barbara are too “faux” for you.

  2. Thomas

    Looks great!

  3. Chris

    I work across from this project and as I saw the white paint going up I thought, “Clearly this must be a primer or something, it can’t be the final color.” Well it is and it looks washed out and diminishes the detailing. How did this get approved??

    • David M.


    • Erik

      The position of City Architect would have been the ideal central person for issues like that to go through, but that job was eliminated after just a couple of years, in the early 1990s. Here is really nobody with any training in charge any more.

  4. Lindsey

    They should have touched up the nice beige color and done the accents in the green that is already on the dome and sign for the theatre. Sad to see a beautiful historic building look so awkward!

  5. Barbara Green

    Nice way to update a historical building. Good job!

    • David M.

      That’s sarcasm I hope.


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