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Santa Monica Civic Could Get Temporary Playing Field
Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
Roque & Mark Real Estate
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Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

May 25, 2016 -- After more than a decade of rallies, campaigns and protests, a coalition of activists pressing for a sports field at the Santa Monica Civic Center could finally get part of what they want -- and sooner than expected.

City Manager Rick Cole said Tuesday he will recommend “immediate funding” for a temporary multi-use sports field on what is now a parking lot for the Civic Auditorium that has been shuttered since 2013.

The temporary playing field, pegged at a cost of about $3.4 million, would consist of synthetic turf, fencing, lighting and portable toilets, he said in a statement posted on the City’s website.

Cole said he recognized “that field space for our community is imperative,” but that the existing timeline is too distant in the future for the parents, students, athletes and others lobbying for the playing field.

His announcement included a rough but “very accelerated” time table for the temporary playing field, starting with City Council approval of the upcoming Capital Improvement budget next month and ending with the start of construction in July of 2018.

Cole cautioned that programming construction funding for the project would be “premature” since a complete design process is needed to provide a more accurate assessment of the impact of construction costs on the budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

In addition, the City also will be working on plans with Santa Monica-Malibu public schools for joint use and possibly joint funding, since the field would be near Santa Monica High School, Cole said.

The project would result in the loss of the sprawling parking lot on which the playing field will be built –- a particular problem for a city where finding parking is a chore.

The City “will need to work with the Coastal Commission and the County Courts on strategies for addressing the loss of parking in the Civic Center and coastal area,” Cole said.

Supporters of a playing field on the 10-acre Civic Auditorium site have been making their case for at least 15 years. They won a crucial round when the City Council, after heavy lobbying, promised in 2005 to include such a proposal in its revitalization plans for the auditorium and surrounding grounds ("Council Approves Civic Center Plan," June 20, 2005).

The plan stalled in February when The City Council heeded the recommendation of the Civic Center Working Group and voted to move forward with plans to revitalize the Civic Auditorium but did not express outright support for the playing field. The Council called for additional study instead ("Council Adopts Plan Prioritizing Fixing Civic Auditorium," February 12, 2016).

Dozens of students from local sports clubs and leagues, coaches and school officials were among some 100 speakers who addressed the council members at the February 9 meeting and told them a playing field was long overdue.

Activists intensified their lobbying efforts again, and Tuesday’s announcement by Cole was the result, City officials said.

“Rick responded directly to the community after I passed on emails I had been getting,” said Santa Monica City Council member Kevin McKeown.

McKeown said that when the Council voted to adopt the revitalization plan overhaul for the auditorium site, it knew that “preliminary work had to be done before that heavily-used parking lot could become a sports field, and we did our best to explain that to the community.

“The Council’s commitment to expedited completion of a temporary sports field is now backed with a specific timeline from the City Manager,” he said.

Council Member Ted Winterer also expressed support for the temporary playing field and said he advocated to see plans for its completion.

“We have a dearth of playing fields in Santa Monica,” Winterer said.

He added that it seemed “prudent to expedite” a temporary playing field at the Civic Center, especially as the City also works on design and funding to expand Memorial and Airport parks.

After the Council approves its budget for upcoming capital improvements in June, the City would send proposals for design and approve them in October, according to Cole’s time table.

The next step –- design development, community input and Coastal Commission approval (contingent on relocating parking) -– would be completed in May of 2017.

Cole expects construction documents to be completed by July 2017, the plan check finished by January 2018 and contracts bid and executed that June.

Shovels would hit the ground a month later under that timeline, which Cole warns could be upended by unanticipated circumstances.

“We will work as quickly as possible to effectuate Council’s direction to ensure implementation of this element of the Civic Center Master Plan and the community’s desire for a temporary sports field,” he said.

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