CITY HALL— City Council appointed five members to merge their skills in an attempt to rescue the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.
The Civic Auditorium Working Group is Plan B for City Hall, which lost its redevelopment agency and with it some of the $51 million in funding required to renovate the aging venue.
City officials said that the Civic needs a seismic retrofit, a new roof, disabilities improvements, and full renovation as a multi-purpose performing arts center.
In July, citing the budget shortfall, council voted to shutter the Civic, which has previously hosted Bob Dylan, the Academy Awards, and Eric Clapton.
The five members were brought in to “provide input on the development of recommendations for the renovation, programming and long-term operation of the Civic,” city officials said.
They join four representatives from Planning, Arts, Landmarks and Recreation & Parks commissions. All nine will work with a council-appointed Technical Advisory Subcommittee made up of three experts in financing, management and programming of venues like the Civic.
They meet for the first time early next month.
The five members include:
• Carey Upton, director of facility use at the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Upton has had experience renovating the historical Palace and Los Angeles theaters in Downtown Los Angeles.
“You have to respect what the place is about,” Upton said of the historical theaters. “It doesn’t want to be a museum, it wants to be a theater, so making it a viable and vibrant space is important. It has to be usable.”
Upton, who has been working in Santa Monica for eight years, said he brings an outside eye to the group.
“I’ve learned a lot by observing as opposed to being involved,” he said.
His first goal is to figure out how to fund the renovations.
“I’m open to all possibilities,” he said.
• Jodi Summers, a Sotheby’s realtor, is a member of the Save the Civic community group. She also serves as communications chair and as a member of the zoning subcommittee for the Ocean Park Association.
Her top priority is to take care of City Hall’s demands.
“(City Hall) has got a list of wants and needs,” she said. “I think it’s important the Civic Working Group address what (City Hall)’s requirements are before we start imposing any personal ideas on it.”
Another priority of Summers’ is to meet the needs of the American Film Market. AFM, the world’s largest film market, where thousands of movie industry professionals gather to buy and sell films, brings millions of dollars of business to Santa Monica every year. AFM officials previously considered moving the event to Downtown Los Angeles but opted to stick with Santa Monica, believing the Civic would be renovated.
AFM opens on Wednesday.
Summers brings balance to the group, she said.
“I have no outside agenda other than to make Santa Monica, or this area in general, better,” she said. “Just to improve the neighborhood, that’s what I’m interested in. I’m really delighted to have been chosen.”
• Philip Orosco is a real estate developer and the Managing Partner at Pacshore Partners. He is overseeing the improvement of the Telephone Building on Seventh Street and Arizona Avenue and an Art Deco building on Wilshire Boulevard, among many other properties Pacshore recently purchased.
Orosco is involved with the Santa Monica Conservancy and has been lauded by conservancy members as someone who cares about historic buildings.
• Linda Bozung, a retired lawyer, has overseen numerous developments.
The Civic is her neighbor.
“I live within five blocks of the Civic, walk by it nearly every weekday, saw my first Jackson Browne concert there, went to vintage, Modernism, craft, antique shows there and cannot imagining not re-using the venue,” she said in her application for the position. “Others may have more (Santa Monica Civic) experience, but none want it to continue hosting these events more than I do.”
• Fred Deni, owner of Back on Broadway and Back on the Beach restaurants, has experience with theater and theatrical production. He’s lived in Santa Monica for 40 years.
“As a long-time patron and member of the performing arts community, I believe a vibrant Civic Center is important to the well-being of the artistic fabric of the community,” he said in his application. “My goal is to help facilitate a conversation and path for bringing a new and stronger Civic [Auditorium] back on line to serve the community.”
The panel will surely vet a set of recommendations by the independent Urban Land Institute, which called for the renovation and modernization of the venue with significant financial support through private development on surrounding land that would help nurture an arts community.
The institute suggested a multi-pronged approach to financing, including selling the naming rights or floating a bond to be paid for by property owners.