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  • Jorge Casuso

Efforts to Restore The Civic Enter New Phase

By Jorge Casuso. Reposted from the Santa Monica Outlook, December 11, 2023

December 8, 2023 -- Efforts to bring back Santa Monica's storied Civic Auditorium as an entertainment and cultural arts venue are picking up steam after State housing officials freed up the City to seek proposals from private developers.

On Tuesday the City Council will take up a discussion item asking the City Manager to issue a public notice soliciting letters of interest for the revitalization of the shuttered landmarked structure.

The item will be discussed two weeks after the advocacy group "Save the Civic" announced "a capable and impressive" group is waiting in the wings with a proposal.

The discussion item placed on the agenda by outgoing Mayor Gleam Davis and Counciilmember Lana Negrete calls for thee public notice to "indicate that the City will maintain ownership of the Civic Auditorium and will consider entering into a long-term lease."In addition, the public notice should indicate that the City is seeking letters of interest from individuals and/or entities that have the experience to operate the facility as a thriving entertainment and cultural arts venue."

The respondents also should have experience "working with projects with landmark restrictions and express intention to preserve the distinguishing historical landmark attributes of the facility, to the greatest extent possible."

They also should have "the demonstrated financial wherewithal to operate the facility without any financial contribution from the City," according to the agenda item.

The unnamed group that Save the Civic says it has found would fit those requirements.

"This group would lease the Civic (so Santa Monica retains ownership of this public space!) and restore it into a world-class venue," Save the Civic wrote in an update posted on its website November 27.

"The cost to Santa Monica taxpayers? Zero. The restoration and operation of the Civic would be financed entirely without city or taxpayer money."The Council's push to restore the venue -- which once hosted legendary rock concerts and the Academy Awards -- to is original use came after State officials gave the City the go-ahead to negotiate with any interested party.

On November 22, the California Housing and Community Development Department said it had determined the City complied with the Surplus Land Act -- which prioritizes affordable housing, parks and recreation -- for the historic site ("City Free to Negotiate Civic Sale with Commercial Developers," November 22, 2023).

Days later, the Santa Monica Conservancy announced it was seeking to have the Civic Auditorium designated a national historic property to help lure private investors ("Civic Nominated for National Historic Designation," November 27, 2023).

The 65-year-old Civic -- which was designated as a City Landmark in 2001 -- is currently "an endangered building in a precarious situation," the Conservancy wrote.

The sought-after listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) would provide opportunities for tax incentives and pave the way for grants, without adding any restrictions, the Conservancy said.

The renewed push comes after previous efforts to resurrect the seismically compromised auditorium have failed, especially after the City lost some $20 million a year in redevelopment funds in 2011 when then Governor Jerry Brown axed more than 400 redevelopment agencies.

Save the Civic -- which counts former Doors Drummer John Densmore and Beach Boys' songwriter Brian Wilson as advisory board members -- said it hopes to introduce the interested group after the Council takes "the next steps to move the Civic process forward.

"When we know the timing of those discussions we will let you know so you can weigh in," the group said. "Then we hope to introduce this group to the community so everyone can hear their proposal.

"Stay tuned for your opportunity to meet them and see their plans. When you do, we think you’ll be delighted."


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