Last week, the City Council approved $46.8 million in redevelopment funds for renovation of the 53-year-old Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.

Problem is the Civic is out of date and no amount of renovation short of a tear-down and rebuild will fix it. It’s basically a multi-purpose room — the kind of which went out of style in the 1960s.

Newer venues such as the Kodak Theater, Nokia Theater, Staples Center, Gibson Amphitheater and others have made houses like the Civic as useless as propellers on a jet plane. The economics of a 3,000-seat auditorium are all wrong. It is too small for major acts or big budget productions and too large for more intimate, lower cost performances. 

Thanks to an incoherent Civic Center plan, there are no nearby amenities to support a viable theater operation — no other performance venues, cafes, restaurants or even night life. If adjacent surface parking is eliminated as planned, the nearest garage is behind the Santa Monica Courthouse (an inconvenient 1/4-mile away) and it’s too small.

Sure, we all attended surf movies and rock concerts in the Civic. And, it has a great stage. But, is that reason to save it? Architecturally, it’s a big, ugly box designed by a mediocre mid-20th century architect, Welton Becket.

The fiscal success of the Civic is dependent on a contract with show business impresarios Nederlander to book acts/shows at the facility. The Nederlander deal does nothing for City Hall or Santa Monica taxpayers.

The five-year contract has a five-year option renewable by Nederlander, not City Hall. Nederlander is not required to make an investment. This means they can walk away and leave City Hall holding the bag for nearly $47 million and no promoter/booker.  Some estimates are that even after renovation, the Civic would still need at least $1 million annually in operational subsidies.

City Hall bureaucrats promised the gussied-up auditorium will generate $18 million in economic activity 10 years down the road. But this is pure guesswork. By the way, “economic activity” isn’t profit. It isn’t even income. Like “whiter than white,” it’s nebulous and meaningless.

Council members Terry O’ Day, Bobby Shriver and Gleam Davis got it right by opposing this expenditure of redevelopment funds. On the other side were Mayor Richard Bloom, Kevin McKeown, Pam O’Connor and Robert Holbrook, who were probably dreaming of returning to the golden days of Academy Award shows and big name concerts that are gone forever.

Spinning parking ticket appeal screw-up

City Hall recently sent out a press release announcing a raft of parking improvements including changes in its handling of parking citation appeals.   

On May 9, I wrote about the deeply flawed appeal process and described appealing a parking ticket by writing a letter to the Parking Violations Bureau (a sub-contractor of ACS State and Local Solutions which handles parking ticket administrative services for City Hall) and explaining why you think your ticket was in error.

Unless dismissed, you’ll receive a “form” notification stating, “the citation is valid.” However California Vehicle Code statute 40215(a) states clearly that initial review notification “include a reason for that denial.”  

To appeal further, one can post bail and request a hearing in front of an examiner who is also a City Hall contractor. Again, if the citation is not dismissed by the examiner, another unsigned notification will be sent stating, “the citation is valid.” Yet, CVC statute 40215(c)(6) says, “… if the notice (citation) is not canceled, include a written reason for that denial.” 

I contended that “the citation is valid” is a determination, not a reason for denial. I wrote that city staff and its contractors were not adhering to CVC codes and denying appellants due process by not following statute.

The recent press handout suggested City Hall provided, “the minimum information required by law” on notifications. I disagree. This is like putting lipstick on a pig. No matter who much lipstick is applied it’s still a pig and “a determination” is still not “a reason.”

The release then proclaims, “providing additional details [or a reason?] with these letters would improve customer service. The notifications sent by the city during the parking citation appeal process now reflect this additional information.”

Customer service, my behind. City Hall is trying to avoid a class action lawsuit. 

The area director of operations for ACS admitted that City Hall was notified of changes in CVC 40215, effective Jan. 1, 2009, yet city staff never authorized changes in notification letters. “Good customer service” would be rehearing cases and refunding all fines/bail charged appellants who were victimized by City Hall’s apparent disregard of vehicle code statutes and process.

Any person who appealed a parking citation after Jan. 1, 2009 who wants additional details on the appeal process can e-mail their request with the citation number to parking.office@smgov.net. City Hall promises they’ll respond within 10 business days. Don’t forget to ask for a dismissal and bail/fine refund, while you’re at it.

 

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com