Council has chosen to move forward with a temporary field at the Civic Center Auditorium with plans to explore additional field space at Memorial Park.
Council had six options on the table Tuesday night including variations on a permanent, temporary or no field at the Civic Center.
A unanimous council ultimately chose to move forward with a temporary field on the Civic Center site (at an estimated cost of $8.6 million with about a 10-year lifespan). The proposal’s largest problem, removal of hundreds of parking spots, will be discussed with the various constituents in the coming months as staff undertake more analysis now that they have direction from Council.
The motion included authorization for a mandatory parking study related to the site, issuing an RFP for renovation of the Civic building and analysis of additional field space at Memorial Park. Staff were also directed to take feedback from Thursday’s School Board meeting regarding the need for a softball field.
Councilwoman Gleam Davis said the cost for a permanent field, about $95.4 million split with the school district, was simply too high to be practical and while she thought field expansion at Memorial park was an “elegant” solution, the community did not support that plan. Therefore, a temporary field was the best choice.
“I cannot in good conscious justify spending $40-50 million dollars on parking,” she said. “I think if we build underground parking, 700 spaces there, we’re going to look down the road in 20 years and say ‘what were we thinking.’”
Davis said she felt the plans for the Civic Center site had always included a promise of a field and an acknowledgement that parking would be removed. She said not only has parking removal been part of the plan, she said reducing parking was actually in keeping with the city’s broader traffic reduction plans.
“We are trying to get people out of cars and the one thing we know is parking, like traffic, is the result of induced demand. If you build parking then people will drive,” she said.
In the five hours of community input, almost every possible opinion was voiced.
John C. Smith, Chair of the Recreation and Parks Commission reiterated the Commission’s recommendation for a temporary field saying the huge cost associated with the permanent site would be better used for other projects throughout the city.
“The Recreation and Parks Commission urges you to move ahead with plans and build a simple temporary field on the site and we also think that we should make sure that any parks bond money be saved to buy parks and not that parking garage,” he said.
David Bryant, Director of Los Angeles County Probation assigned to oversee the Santa Monica office said his office alone has 7 – 800 users a month come through the doors and that more should be done to understand the needs of those who use the court.
“I have a great deal of concern with regard to the feasibility studies that were performed in that if it it’s a credible feasibility study, I feel there should be a balance between both meeting the needs and the desires of the community to service the youth of Santa Monica High School and also the impact to the businesses and agencies that will be affected,” he said.
Longtime arts advocate Bruria Finkel also said the field should be moved away from the Civic Center. She said it was incompatible with efforts to rehabilitate the Civic itself.
“The idea of having a running field at the Civic Center is a bad idea, it doesn’t work, it doesn’t help the community, it destroys the idea of creating a center for the arts,” she said.
Sports advocates said the City needs more fields overall and that a field near the school was important to meet the needs of students.
Resident Susan Black said her son is a tuba player and transporting him to Memorial Park for practice would not be practical. She urged council to look at a permanent park.
“(Students) need to march in the band, play soccer and more than ever, our children need to play, play and play,” she said. “Since 2005, we’ve been waiting. We urge you now to build the park, it’s time to build the park.”
The field discussion will now move to the School Board who will discuss the needs of specific sports, such as softball, and a possible financial partnership with the City.
School Board will meet at 5:30 p.m. at the District Office, 1651, 16th St.