Santa Monica Lookout
City Council Chooses Group to Help Save the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium
By Jason Islas
October 24, 2013 -- The City Council Tuesday selected the nine-person committee charged with finding the best way to save Santa Monica’s 55-year-old Civic Auditorium.
Once a coveted concert hall, once host to performances by the likes of Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, the 3,000-seat Auditorium has fallen into disrepair and, officials estimate, will require at least $50 million in renovations and ongoing subsidies to run as a viable entertainment venue.
That’s exactly the problem facing the group of nine -- which includes representatives of the City’s four major commissions, two realtors and the school district’s director of facilities -- as it rethinks the City’s plans for the building and the 10 acres of land that surrounds it.
“We were really looking for a group of people who would work well together, to lead and to listen and to really engage in productive community dialogue,” Santa Monica’s Cultural Affairs Manager Jessica Cusick told the Council Tuesday.
The Council appointed Philip Orosco, a real estate investor with Pacshore Partners; Carey Wayne Upton, the school district’s director of facility use; Jodi Summers, a realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty; Fred Deni, the owner of Back on Broadway and Linda Bozung, a retired land use lawyer.
“We are delighted to partake in the blossoming of the Santa Monica Civic Center into a sexy, vibrant, viable, desirable and profitable destination that’s just a short walk from the Expo line terminus,” Summers, who specializes in investment properties and coastal real estate, wrote in her application.
In his application, Deni echoed Summers’ sentiments.
“As a long time patron and member of the performing arts community I believe a vibrant Civic Center is important to the well being of the artistic fabric of the community,” he wrote.
The five appointees will serve alongside Phil Brock, representing the Recreation and & Parks Commission; Yeo Katagiri, representing the Arts Commission; Frank Gruber, representing the Planning Commission and Nina Fresco, representing the Landmarks Commission.
The Council, at the request of staff, delayed appointing the technical advisory subcommittee, a three-person group comprised of “comprised of individuals with extensive professional and technical expertise,” according to staff.
Cusick told the Council that she thought it would be best to hold off selecting the subcommittee because she didn’t believe there were enough candidates in the pool with the right qualifications.
That did not sit well with Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who was “disturbed” by Cusick’s recommendation.
He thought her suggestion to hold off on deciding the subcommittee was an endorsement to “let the Civic go for a while” and allow “other development on the site take precedence.”
Among the 14 candidates in the running for the a seat on the subcommittee is Mike Ross, the chief executive officer of the Pasadena Operating Company.
Ross, who was on an Urban Land Institute advisory panel that discussed the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in May, has overseen Pasadena’s Convention Center and Civic Auditorium for seven years. (“To Preserve Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Revise Specific Plan, Says Expert Panel,” May 13)
That panel, chaired by former Santa Monica City Manager John Alschuler, advised City officials and residents that preserving the historic venue would require rethinking how the land around the building is used.
Originally, Santa Monica had hoped to invest about $50 million of Redevelopment Agency (RDA) money into a major overhaul of the building, but after the State passed legislation killing RDAs throughout California, the plans were put on hold indefinitely.
Without an immediate source of money available for the renovation, the City closed down the Auditorium in June to save the $2 million annual subsidy required to keep the venue open.
Since then, City officials have begun asking residents for ideas on what they would like to see done to help preserve the Auditorium. Responses have been varied, including the possibility of putting a bond measure on the ballot and leasing the land around the Auditorium for cultural purposes that could also subsidize operations.
Though selecting the committee is a step toward finding a solution to the City's Civic Auditorium problem, at a meeting in June, Cusick told residents that it would likely be years before a solution is actually found. (“Save the Santa Monica Civic Meeting Turns Out Residents in Force,” June 6)
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