Santa Monica Lookout
Council to Set Requirements for Civic Auditorium Group
By Jason Islas
August 7, 2013 -- The plan to save Santa Monica's Civic Auditorium will move forward Tuesday when the City Council outlines its requirements for a temporary advisory board to help revitalize the historic venue.
Staff recommends that the Council lay out criteria for a nine-person Civic Center Working Group (CCWG) with one appointee each from the Planning, Arts, Landmarks and Recreation & Parks Commissions to brainstorm ways to renovate and program the dilapidated Civic Auditorium, which the City shut down at the end of June.
The CCWG, staff recommends, would work with a Council-appointed Technical Advisory Subcommittee made up of three experts in “financing, management and programming” venues like the Civic.
“We're excited to be moving forward with one of many great steps for the Civic,” said Jessica Cusick, Santa Monica's Cultural Affairs manager.
The working group and the subcommittee, Cusick said, would be the core of the community process the City is preparing to undertake in order to return the Auditorium -- once host to the Rolling Stones, James Brown and the Academy Awards -- to its former glory.
However, with major overhauls to the 55-year-old landmark desperately needed -- estimates start around $50 million -- and no public money to fund them, the groups will have their work cut out for them.
As a result, one of their major goals will be to figure out how to develop the area surrounding the Civic Auditorium into a cultural campus with “an appropriate mix of adjacent uses.”
While those uses could range from open space to small hotels, the group will also have to consider how to finance the Auditorium's revitalization and to fund its ongoing operation, since experts have said it will likely not be able to support itself. (“To Preserve Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Revise Specific Plan, Says Expert Panel," May 13)
While four of the nine seats on the proposed work group would be filled by representatives of the City's four major commissions, the other five seats would be open to Santa Monica residents, workers or business owners with “broad knowledge of Santa Monica and who possess professional expertise in one or more of a variety of relevant disciplines,” staff said.
The subcommittee would be open to people from outside the city. Staff didn't want to limit that pool of candidates “because we are seeking people who are actively working in this field,” Cusick said.
Tuesday's vote would officially kick off what Cusick believes will likely be at least a five-year process of revising the City's strategy on how to address the Civic Auditorium's need for an overhaul.
Original plans to use money from the City's redevelopment agency (RDA) came to a grinding halt at the beginning of 2012 when Governor Jerry Brown, in order to balance the State budget, axed the approximately 400 such agencies around California. (“Santa Monica Civic Auditorium Will Close in June, As Planned,” October 26, 2012)
Santa Monica suddenly had no accesss to the money it had hoped to invest in the venue before the project had even begun.
With no revenue sources in sight, the City officially shuttered the Auditorium in June, saving roughly $2 million a year in subsidies.
After going back to the drawing board -- and consulting leading experts in related fields -- Santa Monica is poised to begin again.
“We're hoping to open the application process the week after Council takes action,” said Cusick, adding that by the 19th people should be able to begin applying.
While staff will look over the applicants and make recommendations, the City Council will ultimately choose who will be on the group.
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