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Santa Monica Wants to Raise Rental Fees for Civic Auditorium

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

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

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier


By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

December 16, 2013 -- The City Council Tuesday will consider raising the cost of renting out the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium after shutting down the venue last summer.

City staff wants the Council to increase the cost to private parties who want to use the 55-year-old venue after the German auto manufacturing company, BMW, approached City officials in November about using the space to launch a new hybrid vehicle next year.

While the City closed the Auditorium in June to save the $2 million a year it cost to keep it open, the Council agreed to make it available for limited uses.

The current rental rates, staff said, were set in 1967 and “no longer reflect the current circumstances.”

Staff has proposed charging up to $10,000 for every 12 to 14 hour day to rent the Auditorium while awaiting plans to repair the dilapidated building.

The City shut down the facility and reduced its staffing in June after it lost funding for a $50 million overhaul of the venue where the Rolling Stones once played and even hosted the Oscars.

“Now in its interim use phase, with nominal staff resources and a significantly reduced budget, the Civic is available for rent on a limited basis,” said staff.

If BMW chooses to hold its five-week event at the Auditorium in April and May 2014, “(t)he proposed rental is estimated to generate approximately $300,000 in unanticipated revenue for the Civic.”

That doesn’t include the estimated boon to hotels and businesses.

“The Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates that hosting this media launch in Santa Monica could result in approximately 1,500 hotel room nights from international journalists and generate local restaurant and retail patronage,” staff said.

And, since it’s a launch event for a hybrid car, staff said, the event is in line with Santa Monica’s “green” goals.

If approved, the new rental rates would be in effect until the City can figure out what to do with the venue.

In October, the City Council appointed nine residents to a working group and charged them with brainstorming a plan to help generate the money for badly-needed repairs and system upgrades for the 3,000 seat venue.

Deciding how to save the Civic, drafting a new area plan and then moving forward with it will likely take years, City officials have said.

In the meantime, staff said it will be helpful to have a formalized fee schedule.

“Staff is working with BMW to finalize the terms of the agreement,” officials said.

“Formally establishing interim uses and associated rental fees at this time would provide staff with applicable guidelines to complete a Civic rental permit with BMW,” they said.

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