The Early Childhood Lab School (ECLS) does not belong in the Civic Center Specific Plan. Building it requires accepting a terrible economic deal that uses resident-owned land to benefit private interests instead of addressing the greatest public good.
Santa Monica College (SMC) proposes to lease two acres at $1/year for 65 years and accept $6M from the City’s general fund to build an ECSL satellite campus and private child-care facility for children of city employees, college personnel, and the RAND Corporation (headquartered across Main Street from the Civic Center).
Why would the City contribute land, a below-market lease, and $6M of taxpayer monies for construction costs to an entity that does not serve a significant number of residents (only 4% of students at SMC are from Santa Monica High School) in its daily operations? Dedicating two acres of public land for a private childcare employment perk to serve 110 mostly non-resident preschool children is simply inequitable.
Since 2002, four bond measures have brought $935 million into SMC coffers, obligations that with interest will reach $2 billion, repaid solely by property owners and renters in Santa Monica and Malibu. Hundreds of millions of bond proceeds are available to SMC now. SMC has plenty of other land available – a 38-acre main campus and seven satellite campuses, including the recently acquired YWCA on 14th Street near Pico that already has a child-care facility on site and is conveniently located adjacent to the main campus.
The Entire Civic Center Parking Lot Space Should Be Open/Field Space.
The 1997 City of Santa Monica Open Space Element envisioned the Civic Center as a location for “significant new parks and open spaces”, proposing “a six acre multi-use park at the corner of Pico and 4th.” Top priorities haven’t changed: resident enjoyment and use of the Civic Center requires renovating the Civic Center Auditorium and building open space for residents and visitors compatible with the cultural uses of a refurbished auditorium, and field space for Santa Monica High School (SAMOHI) students.
As high school enrollment grew, the District cannibalized fields to construct classrooms; now, 3,000 students have less field space than when 1,000 students were enrolled. Parents, teachers, administrators, coaches and students have voiced the need for field space that will allow athletic events and practices to be held close to the SAMOHI campus instead of requiring students to travel elsewhere in the City on a daily basis, adding to traffic congestion and increasing costs of sports participation. In addition, the need for athletic fields has grown, with after-school programs for thousands of residents playing soccer, lacrosse, football, rugby, baseball, softball, ultimate Frisbee, adult soccer and baseball and other sports.
Where else shall our children and we play? Memorial Park is not an alternative because placing a soccer field there would require sacrificing two diamonds from our city’s already limited baseball/softball field complex. More fields at the airport would be laudable but they are uncertain, hopeful possibilities at least a dozen years off.
Converting the existing parking lot to fields provides flexibility in programming future events at the Civic Center Auditorium, e.g., film festivals, public gatherings, music concerts, and other artistic programs. The ECLS is dead space on nights and weekends and incompatible with Auditorium uses.
Once this open space is lost, it can never be recovered.
As the late columnist Bill Bauer wrote, “Over the years, there have been many committees and individuals working on a Civic Center Specific Plan. As various interests were catered to, the whole process became muddled, unfocused and sidetracked. The Civic Center is currently home to City Hall, the Public Safety Building, County Courthouse, a multi-story parking garage, and 1100-car surface parking lot next to a 3000-seat multi-use Civic Auditorium, a luxury hotel, Rand headquarters, a 318-unit low-income apartment/market rate condo project and Tongva Park… this is not the right place for an ECSL facility because it adds another disparate element to the Civic Center that isn’t compatible with cultural endeavors or an upgraded Civic Auditorium.” (Source Santa Monica Daily Press 5/14/15)
Santa Monica residents urge our City Council to immediately halt action on the ECLS, remove it from the Civic Center Specific Plan, and commit instead to building open and field space for our residents and high school students.
These fields belong in the heart of Santa Monica, near SAMOHI.