Santa Monica City Council & S.M. Civic Auditorium Report

by journojames on February 10, 2012

Originally published Mar. 14, 2011

SANTA MONICA, CA – The Santa Monica City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to work with one of the nation’s top concert producers in an effort to revitalize the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium despite serious concerns about the projected $45 million commitment in renovation.

Santa Monica City Council, Photo courtesy of Santa Monica Patch

City Council members and citizens were enthusiastic about partnering with the Nederlander Organization, which has produced successful musicals like “Wicked” and “The Lion King” as well as presented such headlining music acts like Paul Simon and U2.

Nederlander would take over and manage the neglected 3,000-seat historical landmark that has either sat empty or been relegated to hosting occasional gem and cat shows. In better times, the Civic Auditorium was home to the Academy Awards ceremony and to popular concerts like Bruce Springsteen.

“I remember seeing Joan Baez there (Civic Auditorium) and I haven’t seen anything else since,” Linda Jassim, Santa Monica Arts Commission Chairperson, told the council. “This could be a really major cultural destination again for this part of town. It’ll make the whole area a vital civic and cultural force,”

A facelift is in the plans, Photo courtesy of the Santa Monica Mirror

City Council members shared those sentiments. However, at a time when a new state budget could take away most, if not all, the money set aside for redevelopment projects, the council also had serious concerns about entering a contract with Nederlander that would potentially tie up $45 million for seismic retrofitting, as well as other major facility upgrades to the stage, seats and concessions.

“I’m a fan of the Civic,” said Council member Bobby Shriver. “My concern is the whole redevelopment agency funding process. When we earmarked this money a couple of years ago, no one envisioned the possibility that the R.D.A. (redevelopment agency) would effectively go away. I’m very nervous going forward. $45 million is an enormous number for our city.”

Shriver said he was open to the idea of private financing as an option, including naming rights for the auditorium, especially during the current dismal economic climate.

This prompted former Santa Monica Mayor Michael Feinstein, who was watching the proceedings from home, to rush into council chambers and voice his objection.

The Santa Monica Civic Center, Photo courtesy of the city of Santa Monica

“I just freaked out when I heard about the possibility of naming rights,” Feinstein told the council. “I find it entirely offensive. It’s not who we are as Santa Monica. Naming rights are about commodifying the commons and that’s against our whole sustainable city approach. Please don’t do it. It’s not who we’re about,” said Feinstein, who was Santa Monica Mayor in 2000-2002.

Shriver, however, disagreed and used the Staples Center, the Los Angeles sports arena named after the office supply store as an example.

“Staples is a great place,” Shriver said. “It doesn’t seem to have destroyed the neighborhood. That facility and the related development has done some pretty great things for downtown.”

Renovations to the Civic Auditorium would begin in the fall or winter of 2012 according to preliminary plans.

 

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