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  • Peter Altschuler

Civic Myopia

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

by Peter Altschuler: 8.14.23 Letter to the Santa Monica City Council:

Santa Monica’s population, according to U. S. Census Bureau data, has declined by 5% since 2020 from 92.7K to 87.9, and it’s projected to continue to shrink School enrollment in the city is currently 9900, roughly 11% of the total number of residents. With an average family size of under three among married couples and with married, divorced, and separated residents totalling less than 60% of the population, the number of couples with school age children is, clearly, small.

The forecasts for K-12 enrollment in the county over the next decade show a steady decline —

— and it’s likely that Santa Monica’s student population will reflect a similar reduction as the population of the city itself declines. The ratio of housing to households with children While all the new housing might suggest an increase in school attendance, there is only a minimum number of affordable units among the thousands being built, and that prevents young families from moving in. Despite all the additional units, forecasts reflect a diminishing population. That may encompass the recognition that Santa Monica is among the most expensive communities in the nation and that the majority of new residences are priced at market rates. All of this argues against re-purposing the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium as an ancillary gymnasium for Santa Monica High School, whose expansion was undertaken under far rosier conditions and whose future attendance may result in seeing many of the improvements under utilized. Unexplored options The Council is being particularly myopic in its inability or unwillingness to seek grants and financing to restore the Civic Auditorium as a local cultural resource. There are federal and state grants for restoring and retrofitting historic structures. Charitable foundations offer bequests to underwrite cultural facilities. Corporations pay tens of millions of dollars for naming rights… without having an ongoing financial interest beyond free advertising. None of those options seem to be under consideration. Colleges and universities have been given endowments for generations, yet there is nothing in the published plans for the Civic that hint at using the Auditorium as a music and theater space for Santa Monica College — an activity that might generate interest and bequests from the LA entertainment community. The Edward Thomas Company, which owns Shutters and Casa del Mar, might welcome a connection to events at the Civic. When Casa del Mar was the Pritikin Center, program participants, such as comedian Rodney Dangerfield, would attend theater and music performances at Samohi. Surely, marquee talent at the Civic would attract far greater interest… and fill hotel rooms that are within walking distance. Fender Guitars, now headquartered in Hollywood, had its instruments played by numerous musicians who performed at the Civic. Letting the company christen the entry as the Leo Fender Lobby might have some value. This is a time to be imaginative, inventive, and inspired; not limited to how things have been done in the past. p


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