Q. Who owns the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium?
A. We do! It belongs to the residents of Santa Monica and has since it was built in 1958.
Q. When did the Auditorium close and why?
A. The Civic closed in 2013. It needed seismic retrofitting and when the State’s redevelopment funds were halted there was no money to pay for it.
Q. Why is the Auditorium important?
A. Designed by noted architect Welton Becket who also designed the Capital Records Building, the Theme Building at LAX, and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, it was the site of a thriving music and performing arts center as well as host to the Academy Awards for many years. It is the only concert/performing arts space of its size on the Westside. Once it’s gone from public use, it’s gone forever.
Q. Why does the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District want to buy it?
A. The District intends to convert it for use primarily as a gym for Santa Monica High School. Its plan calls for ONE basketball court with space for wrestling competitions.
Q. If the School District buys the Civic wouldn’t it still be protected as a landmark?
A. No! The District says it would like to preserve it but is under no legal obligation to do so. The School District exists outside the bounds of the City’s landmarking rules and can do whatever it wants, even demolish it.
Q. How does the School District intend to pay for the rehabilitation ($220 million+) and purchase (unknown price tag) of the Auditorium?
A. YOU are going to pay for it. Residents of Santa Monica will be asked to pass a bond to finance it. Even if the Civic isn’t important to you, it’s important to know that if SMMUSD purchases it, as a resident of Santa Monica, you will be asked to pay for something (with a bond) that you already own. And according to the District's study, this $250 million+ gym will not even be used for P.E. classes as it’s too far from the main campus, so will only be used for competitions and athletic practices.
Q. But doesn’t the City need the revenue selling the Civic would provide?
A. The City does need revenue. But a revitalized Civic would be a revenue stream for decades, as opposed to a one-time sale with a one-time payment. And the economic ripple effects for Santa Monica would be huge as a restored, world-class music and arts venue in the heart of Santa Monica would attract people from all over the region and beyond, generating economic activity (and tax dollars!) for hotels, restaurants, etc., enhancing our City’s destination status. Turning those 3.5 acres into a gym would provide none of that.
Q. Can an entity to restore the Civic be found?
A. Yes! We have found a serious, motivated, and credible investment group with experience in concert promotion that is VERY interested in partnering with the City to restore and run the Civic as a world-class concert, performing arts and cultural center. The Civic is a “unicorn”; a unique, once-in-a-generation opportunity to operate a facility like this on the Westside, which has the demographic base to support it. If we’ve found a potential suitor, the City could as well.
Q. What about reparations to address the displacement of the Belmont community which was moved off this land so the Civic could be built?
A. Santa Monica is a leader in progressive ideas and so it can be with the Civic. We propose adding a small fee to every ticket sold which would go into a reparations fund. This fee, which would be shown on ticket receipts as a “reparation fee” is not only a way to raise money, but an opportunity to spark conversation and awareness. This is something a restored Civic, used as a concert and performing arts center, could offer that a School District gym could not.
Q. What is Save the Civic’s vision for the Civic and how can it be accomplished?
A. Save the Civic’s mission is a restored, vibrant, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium serving as a center for the performing, musical and visual arts, helping to make our City a cultural and arts destination for Santa Monicans, Southern Californians and beyond; a source of pride (and tax revenue!) for the people of our great City. To accomplish that, we’re working with organizations and residents to:
1) Discourage the City Council from entering into any agreement with an entity that will not guarantee the Civic’s landmark status and/or relegates its use to primarily servicing a limited segment of Santa Monica’s population, with only occasional public use.
2) Find potential entities to operate the Civic and encourage the City to partner with them to protect, invest in, and maintain the Civic for its valued purpose as a world-class public venue for the performing, musical and visual arts.
Q. How can residents who share this vision help?
A. Band together. Tell your friends and neighbors. Write City Council members and urge them not to liquidate this unique and treasured space for use primarily as a gym, and help restore it to a vital, music and arts venue that will benefit Santa Monicans for generations to come.