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Council Adopts Plan Prioritizing Fixing Civic Auditorium, Calls for Parks Study

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Hector Gonzalez
Special to The Lookout

February 12, 2016 -- After hearing from 100 speakers, City Council members voted this week to seek out qualified companies that can create a viable revitalization plan for the Civic Auditorium but took no action on a sports field proposed for a section of the surrounding property.

Dozens of students from local sports clubs and leagues, coaches and school officials told the council time is long over-due for a new playing field in the City.

They called on the council to reject final report by the Civic Working Group recommending the City prioritize fixing the auditorium, and asked that the City instead move forward simulateneously on both projects.

In the end, however, council members unanimously approved the Civic Working Group's recommendation to send out a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) seeking qualified companies to present their design and development proposals for the Civic Center Auditorium.

Many cities use the RFQ process for complicated development projects to pre-qualify companies that will then present competing final proposals.

The request for qualified companies, however, must take into consideration the Civic Center Specific Plan, the council decided.

That plan, adopted in 2005, calls for revitalizing the auditorium and also using part of the 10-acre Civic Center property to build a Civic Park and full-size playing field and an early childhood education center.

Council members also directed staff to begin working with local schools, the college and youth groups to begin exploring plans to build a temporary field on the Civic Center property “as soon as possible.”

They also ordered staff to work with the community to study what other open spaces remain in the City where parks or fields could be built in the future.

Council also recommended staff start looking into funding sources right away.

Council members, however, could not alter the Civic Center Specific Plan, at their meeting Tuesday because it was not on the agenda.

“Let me assure everyone that we're not here tonight to remove the playing field from the Specific Plan,” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown.

Councilmember Gleam Davis also voiced the council's commitment to keeping three elements of the Specific Plan in place, including the park and playing field.

“This is not a one or another proposition,” said Davis said. “All three are contemplated to exist and we all realize that's what it's been.”

Many students and coaches complained that the lack of local space has meant soccer games going late into the night on school nights and leagues having no place to play in their home city.

Both before and after public comments, council members and staff said they were aware of the need for more park space in the City.

“We're park poor,” said Karen Ginsberg director of community and cultural services, adding Santa Monica has an average of 1 acre of park space for every 1,000 residents, compared to 3.8 per 1,000 residents in the County of Los Angeles.

“This council repeatedly has demonstrated not only its recognition of the importance of having playing fields, but has been willing to put its money where its mouth is. Unfortunately, the state took away a lot of that money,” said Davis.

She was referring to $50 million in redevelopment money the City had been prepared to spend on new athletic fields for Santa Monica High School, before the state disbanded local redevelopment agencies in 2011.

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