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Santa Monica Museum of Art Gets Hugh Rent Hike

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By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

June 20, 2014 – With the Expo Line fast approaching and the Bergamot Station Arts Center set to undergo a possible revamp, the cornerstone of Santa Monica’s cultural hub is reeling in the wake of a huge rent hike.

The Santa Monica Museum of Art, which sits on the privately owned section of the Bergamot complex, will now have to pay $22,000 a month instead of $7,000, landlord Wayne Blank announced this week.

Blank, who also owns the Shoshana Wayne Gallery in the Center, said that he will also be seeking back rent of $53,000, according to a report in the LA Times.

Blank claims to have saved the museum “$3 million over the years by charging 70 cents a square foot in rent compared to $2 for other tenants,” according to the report.

The rent increase comes weeks after Blank resigned from one of the three development teams vying to redevelop the Arts Center. He said his resignation was a way for him to speak out against plans to fundamentally change the character of the arts hub.

The proposal submitted by Blank’s development team, Bergamot Station Ltd/Worth Real Estate, earlier in the year failed to win the support of City Staff. 

Museum officials supported the 26Street TOD, which won staff’s recommendation, prompting Blank to triple its rent “in response to what he considers its disruptive and unneighborly vision for Bergamot Station,” according to the Times.

"It's all connected to the fact that Mr. Wayne didn't win the competition,” said Bruria Finkel, a local artist, curator and former Arts Commissioner who has been a driving force on the cultural scene for three decades.

“It was a vigorous competition," Finkel said. "When the landlord's team didn't win, it left a sour taste in [his] mouth."

The City Council has instructed staff to gather additional information and input from the gallery stakeholders before making a final decision.

The proposal from 26Street TOD Partners recommended by staff features a new $7 million museum and a $10 million endowment for the art museum, all at developer cost. 

Blank has denied in the press that the rent increase was in response to his development team's $80-million plan not being chosen by City staff.

Officials at the Museum of Art declined to comment on the matter.

"The situation is very unfortunate,” said Finkel. “It is unfortunate to have this kind of behavior."

Lookout reporter Ivette Lopez contributed to this report

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