Although they had questions regarding the logistical details of bringing a temporary 12,000-seat venue to the local beach, members of the Santa Monica Planning Commission seemed to like the idea of hosting an Olympic event in eight years.
Organizers recently unveiled plans to bring beach volleyball to Santa Monica as part of its bid for the Olympic Games in 2024, and the city panel’s meeting last week marked one of the first public examinations of the proposal by local officials.
The commission, which heard a presentation from LA 2024 chief communications officer Jeffrey Millman, was generally receptive to the prospect of involving the beachside city in the international athletic competition.
“What we’d like to do is ultimately get approval from the City of Santa Monica, prevail in the competition and then have seven years to work on the details and various placements of things,” Millman said.
Millman showed a promotional video as LA 2024 continues campaigning to win the bid over Budapest, Paris and Rome ahead of a vote in September 2017. The video featured appearances by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, actors Will Ferrell and Jessica Alba and acclaimed chef Roy Choi, among others.
The beach, of course, figures prominently in the promo.
“We love Santa Monica,” Millman said. “We recognize how iconic and beautiful your city is. We like that it’s serviced by mass transit. We like that you’re making the investments to really propel our region into the future.”
Millman touted the event as a potential worldwide advertisement for Santa Monica, noting that beach volleyball typically commands large television audiences. And he said the proposed stadium would have lights, meaning the games in the last two weeks of July 2024 could be played at and after sunset.
“It would be tremendous exposure to billions of people that follow the Olympic Games,” he said. “This would be very picturesque.”
More than 80 of respondents in Los Angeles County favor hosting the Olympics in eight years, according to a Loyola Marymount University study. The event would mark the return of the Olympics to Santa Monica, which played a role in the 1984 Games when the track at Santa Monica College was used for part of the marathon races. Beach volleyball was not an Olympic sport at the time.
Initial plans for 2024 included hosting the Olympic triathlon and open-swimming events in Santa Monica as well as beach volleyball, leading organizers to consider placing a beach volleyball arena south of Santa Monica Pier.
“Other cities [in the region] said, ‘What about us?’” Millman said.
With Santa Monica now pegged only for beach volleyball, it was determined that a site north of the pier would be more suitable. Bid organizers would work to limit the impact of the events on residents who live on nearby Palisades Beach Road.
The north-of-pier location is appealing in part because of its proximity to the Expo Line terminus, Millman said. Organizers envision public transit as the primary option for spectators considering several hundred parking spaces would be unavailable due to the temporary volleyball venue.
Crowds would access the venue from a set of temporary stairs and ramps from the pier, Millman said. Commissioner Nina Fresco noted that the pier is a landmark and cautioned that any added infrastructure would have to be constructed with sensitivity.
“Just something to put in the back of your head,” she said.
Fresco also wanted to make sure the area would be restored to its previous state afterward if the Olympics were staged in Los Angeles.
“When September  comes, it will be like it never happened on the beach,” she said. “All traces will be removed?”
Millman allayed her concern, saying officials would attempt to leave the beach in even better condition.
City beach administrator Judith Meister said many of the details of the presentation were new to her.
“We had some preliminary discussions on site and pointed out some issues that we know will come up,” she said. “We wanted to give some of the city boards the opportunity to hear about it. There are a lot of challenges. If they get the bid, we’d be working very closely with them. At this point, it’s pretty conceptual.”
Upgrades to the pier bridge are expected to be completed by 2021, which Meister said would improve the flow of pedestrian traffic if Los Angeles wins the bid.
The volleyball venue would almost certainly require a permit from the California Coastal Commission, Millman said. The beach bike path would be re-routed around the arena, closer to the ocean.