KB Home has opted to save a postwar landmark as the front gate of a redevelopment project that calls for more than 200 homes on a 12.3-acre former drive-in theater in South El Monte.
The 72-year-old Streamline Moderne/Googie marquee of the Starlite Drive-In will be preserved and restored as part of the project at 2560 Rosemead Blvd., Urbanize Los Angeles reported.
The historic pink sign that once greeted generations of night-sky movie-goers and daytime swap meet shoppers will be included in the proposed project of 169 single-family houses and 38-multi-family dwellings, according to a new environmental report.
The Starlite Drive-In opened on June 15, 1950, drawing as many as 860 cars to the fan-shaped lot for scarcely more than a buck a load. By day, it became the popular Starlite Swap Meet.
With the march of time, the drive-in screen was taken down in 1997. But the 30-foot sign whose twinkling stars lit up the theater at dusk still stands.
“The Starlite was built during the first great wave of drive-in theaters following the end of World War II,” the report said. “The drive-in was an iconic experience for the average American family who could enjoy an outdoor film from the comfort of their own automobile. When the Starlite Drive-In first opened it was lauded as one of the largest drive-ins on the west coast with every “modern facility”. Its illuminated sign was praised in a 1951 issue of the Boxoffice magazine as a fine example of an ‘attraction panel’ to “catch the attention of patrons.”
Plans for KB Home’s Starlite Residential Development call for three-story attached and detached Spanish Colonial Revival and Craftsman-style buildings linked by private roads and pedestrian walkways.
Plans also call for 9,000 square feet of recreation space, including a community building and swimming pool.
Construction of the Starlite development in the San Gabriel Valley, east of Los Angeles, is expected to begin this fall and be completed in Spring 2024.
KB Home, a multibillion-dollar homebuilding firm based in Westwood and founded in 1957, has a long history of development in Los Angeles.
Its co-founder Eli Broad would become one of the city’s most influential and prolific philanthropists. He died in 2021 at 87. He amassed a nearly $7 billion fortune and gave away an estimated $2 billion to support the arts, medical research, education and more.
[Urbanize LA] – Dana Bartholomew