THE SANTA MONICA CIVIC IS NOT THE POINT
reposted from the Santa Monica Daily Press 8.23.23
But for many of us who live here, it is the tipping point. The debate over how we are going to rid ourselves of it is the final, insulting, unthinkable culmination of more than a decade of the systematic ruin of a once great city, through the selling of our land, our clear skies and sunshine, sea breezes, peace and quiet, walkable streets, our beach culture, history, heritage – what Santa Monica has been known for worldwide. And is no longer, though many work diligently to perpetuate that myth.
Now we have ideologues running the show, working to implement ideas and unproven theories, whether they benefit or harm the current residents, holding hands with the big money that is working so hard to be really big money, doling out favors, connections and political support to those whose personal agendas are beating down whatever pride and loyalty they may have once had to the community where they live. Greed rules, a lust for even more power and wealth, consequences be damned.
Am I exaggerating? Do I sound like a conspiracy crazy? Getting so worked up over not so much, that I can’t see straight? I can see straight, straight up Lincoln Boulevard, once derided as being merely ugly, but now aptly referred to as The Great Wall of Lincoln. Lined with hulking, mostly ugly boxes of too many stories, leaning into the sidewalk, nearly into the street, where once there was a reasonable, livable downtown of mostly two – four stories, and Lincoln was all two (as was Main Street). But wait a minute – I thought our downtown ended at 5th Street, now it’s at Lincoln? Uh huh. For good (bad) reasons. You just haven’t been paying enough attention, have you? I’ve been saying, people here don’t get upset about more development until they see a huge hole in the ground being dug next door, and of course then it is years too late. There has been a loose, unofficial, unacknowledged master plan for Santa Monica for many years, that has brought us right to the doors of our Civic Auditorium, only we haven’t been in on it. We haven’t had a vote, or even a clue.
What happened to our vote? It’s the Santa Monica CIVIC Auditorium, but no one is asking the residents what they want. The various power cabals are meeting away from the public eye, as usual. And then letting the officials in on their marching orders. If we had elected and appointed officials who were caretakers of our city and its residents, we wouldn’t be faced with all this. That’s why the Civic is our most pressing, immediate problem, but only a symptom of our greater dilemma, of everything being for sale, for the benefit of a very few.
Putting the wrong people in power got us into this, and I believe voting for the right people can get us out. But that is such an uphill climb. We need resident organization way beyond what we’ve ever had, and a supporting PAC, to even get started. And the next election is almost upon us.
It is, by intention and design, a pretty complicated, opaque issue, so I am going to offer my simple truth: This is not just another building that has outlived its usefulness. For what has taken place at this building, way beyond what you might expect for a little ol’ CA beach town, it must be preserved. Maybe there is no solution today, but there could be, in a few years. Maybe AI can resolve it. Maybe quantum computing. One thing for sure, if you let someone demolish it now, you will never get that history back. And Santa Monica will be the poorer for it.
People who are familiar with a complicated issue get to define it for others. How presumptuous! So, that’s exactly what I am going to do. By puncturing
SOME OF THE MYTHS
It will cost hundreds of millions to make it seismically safe.
I want a second opinion. The City’s “expert” told us it would cost $400,000 to make the Chain Reaction sculpture safe. It cost about one quarter of that.
It has been losing money for decades, forget it.
First we had $50M from the CA Redevelopment Fund, but then that went away. We had real interest from the Nederlander concert promoters, but they finally got discouraged. Maybe with our plans to fill in all the parking with kindergartens and soccer fields? This famous 3,000 seat venue could easily make money under the right circumstances.
The School District needs it for a gym.
DO NOT under any circumstances let SMMUSD get its hands on it. Many reasons. If they do, all local zoning and landmark designation go away and they can do whatever they want with it, despite what they may tell you beforehand. I’ve been told that land is worth nearly $100M more without the Civic sitting there. They say they need it for a competition gym, but they could have built that on the Samohi campus, and still could, with part of the more than $1,000,000,000 we have already given them in bond money. NOT ANOTHER PENNY! And besides, the Civic would only provide at best one gym, when what they need is three. And lastly, the District and particularly the School Board have shown us exactly how much they regard history, with their unnecessary destruction of the Muir Woods mural, and the History Building.
We need to sell it to pay for our $200M+ lawsuit settlements over a child molester operating out of the Police Athletic League.
I may not be correct on this but I thought we had already come up with a payment plan, leaving us basically broke. But if this city were managed properly, we would have cash in the near future. There’s always something to pay for. We can’t start selling off our history and legacy.
It’s just a building. One that has outlived its usefulness and is now a white elephant, a drain on our resources. See above.
It is a part of us, in so many ways. When the faithful family pet, or grandma, get too old to be of much use, we don’t dump them in the trash.
Don’t compare it to the Pier, which Santa Monicans rallied around in the ‘70s to prevent its destruction. Nobody comes to town and says, will you take me to see the Civic?
Apples and oranges. They would if Dylan were singing there. Or Bruce. Or the Stones. Probably even Taylor might decide it would be a cool place to play. After all, it is…. The world famous Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 37 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org