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Santa Monica Civic Auditorium Will Close in June, As Planned

Frank Gruber for City Council





Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pico Business Improvement District
7th Annual Pico Festival
Sunday, October 28th

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

October 26, 2012 -- While the future of the Santa Monica's dilapidated Civic Center remains largely uncertain, the Council decided to stick to the June 30 date to close the building.

Citing concerns that the City couldn't afford the $2 million a year that would be required to keep the historic auditorium running while officials try to find the $50 million required to renovate the building, the Council voted 6 to 1 to hold fast to the June 30 closure date.

Only Council member Kevin McKeown voted against shutting the venue down.

“We do need to stay the course on our current policy on closing the Civic. I don't think we can sustain the losses,” said Mayor Richard Bloom, adding that the $2 million a year it takes the City to operate the auditorium could be distributed elsewhere.

“Dollars are increasingly hard to come by in the city, jobs are extremely important, but there's a balance there,” he said, talking about the 26 City employees currently working at the Auditorium.

“I think we face here again something we're going to face... the loss of the redevelopment money,” said Council member Bobby Shriver.

“It is gone,” he said, emphatically.

Originally, the City had slated some $50 of Redevelopment Agency (RDA) money for the renovation and seismic retrofitting of the 54 year old building -- once home to the Oscars.

However, when Governor Jerry Brown dissolved the RDAs throughout the state was upheld by the courts in February of this year, that money was no longer there and Santa Monica had to consider many projects. And on August 14, the City decided to suspend the renovation of the Auditorium.

“I think some day we're going to thank Jerry Brown for getting us to save the Civic in a sustainable manner,” former Lookout columnist Frank Gruber told the Council Tuesday.

“We need to find an outside partner,” he said. “And bring in someone to take it over.”

“Where is it in the City's purpose that we run a performing arts center?” he asked.

Many on the dais agreed.

“I strongly urge my colleagues... to involve the private sector strongly,” said Shriver. “We don't have the extra money we used to have in the old days.”

Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis said that getting an outside party to take over the venue might prove difficult, recalling that when the Council put out a Request for Proposal (RFP), they got one response.

“How viable is a 3,000 seat theater?” she asked. “We may have to accept some physical changes to the building to make it more attractive.”

Shriver went one step further.

“Nobody likes the idea of demolition, but demolition may be necessary,” he said.

There was also the question of the surrounding parking lot, which was slated as, as part of the Civic Center Specific Plan, to become a park.

“I'd like to hear from some of the visionaries of the world what they would see on that site,” said Bloom. “We've got a hunk of blacktop there.”

“Whatever happens here has to work economically for the city,” he said.

Council member Terry O'Day agreed, saying that the process needed a pair of “fresh eyes.”

Shriver said that opening the process up to developers may not be a bad idea.

“One thing to be said about developers is that occasionally... occasionally, developers are creative people, so the engagement of developers on creative uses of property or buildings... may not be a dumb idea,” he said.

The matter will come back before the Council in January.

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