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Pier Board Approves New Agreement with the City

By Jorge Casuso

Ten years after the old agreement expired, the Pier Restoration Corporation board Wednesday night approved a new services agreement with the City that scales back the board's leasing responsibilities but retains its authority to choose pier tenants.

The new agreement, which still must be approved by the City Council, also requires that the pier board present the council with an annual business plan that sets forth its marketing and promotion plans and leasing guidelines.

If approved by the council, the services agreement would replace the original agreement that has been in place since the Pier Restoration Corporation was established in 1985 to rebuild the massive wooden structure devastated by the 1983 storms. The changes were necessary because the role of the PRC has changed, while the old agreement has been extended since it expired in 1990, officials said.

"The PRC was making the transition from restoring the pier to managing what's here," said PRC executive director Jan Palchikoff. "It really was more a question of where do we go from here."

Under the agreement, the City would be responsible for drafting and negotiating leases, responsibilities that were previously carried out by the pier board and its hired attorneys.

"For the first time in the history of Santa Monica Pier we now have very capable professionals handling this matter," said Bill Spurgin, who chairs the PRC board. "I think that this board needs to be policy makers not micro managers."

While the City would take over the responsibility of drafting and negotiating the leases, the pier board would establish the "guidelines and policies for leasehold development... as well as the review and approval of leases and lease modifications presented by the City," according to the agreement.

"The PRC has final say," said City Manager Susan McCarthy. "The PRC really has the responsibility for setting up the lease guidelines and policies. The City Council could certainly make its concerns known to the PRC board, but there's not a formal place in the process" that gives the council veto power.

But the Council doesn't need veto power spelled out in the document, since it appoints the PRC board and can replace the members if they defy the consensus of the council.

"We can basically set this document aside," said Mayor Ken Genser, who is a council liaison to the PRC. "We have the ultimate authority even though it's not in the services agreement. Even in a case by case basis we have the power to do it."

Under the agreement, the PRC must submit a business plan for all activities, policies and business strategies to be implemented at the pier by the PRC. The plan would include "advertising, event management, planning and development, leasing guidelines and approvals, sponsorships and licensing, marketing and promotion, special events, film permitting, service contracts and insurance," according to the agreement.

The PRC also must submit an operating budget that must be approved by the City Council. On Wednesday the board unanimously approved an $820,700 budget, of which $486,000 will come from the City.

Councilman Paul Rosenstein said that the agreement approved by the PRC is confusing and that it should be changed to give the City Council greater oversight, including the final say in who should lease property on the pier.

"The City Council has been lax in overseeing the activities of the PRC," Rosentein said. "The council has historically wanted the PRC to take responsibility because they want to pass the buck. They don't want to be badgered."

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