The Santa Monica – Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) could be willing to contribute funds to construction of a new field on the Civic Center site if the project includes a softball field but Boardmembers don’t seem convinced a softball field should be part of the project.
While joint funding appears to be contingent on the softball addition, the SMMUSD Board questioned the need for the softball overlay at their June 29 meeting. The discussion followed the Council’s decision to pursue a temporary field with a cost of about $8.6 million. Part of the cost is due to including a softball field overlay on the rectangular field and Council asked staff to consult with the school district on the need for a softball overlay on the site.
Boardmembers said they were looking forward to having a temporary field at the Civic Center, however they debated if Samohi needs a softball overlay.
Parent, Ann Hoover, a member of the Facilities District Advisory Committee said a field is not needed.
“Thank you all for taking eight months to make this decision,” she said. “We advocated so hard for this and with respect to the softball overlay, we strongly recommend it not be pursued. It would increase the field, and it would have a chilling effect. Adding the softball field would cost more and eliminate more parking spaces.”
Boardmember Laurie Liberman said she didn’t think the District would be asked to contribute funding unless school officials requested the softball field and that given the lack of advocacy for a softball field, she didn’t think it was necessary.
“I watched the city council and believe there was a slight misunderstanding of why our staff proposes this in the first place,” she said. “The field was about solving a problem in the City as well as the district issues. The goal was to put together a project that helped all kinds of residents in the city. Samohi is just not big enough to have and do all the things we would like to do. “
The discussion last week did not include any formal vote on the project due to the lack of specifics about the plan (it was approved just two days before the Board meeting) and primary responsibility for the project is with the City.
After the meeting, district staff said it is unlikely SMMUSD will contribute money without a softball field in the project and as the project was still in its formative stages City staff will be responsible for finalizing the design elements. The final design is subject to a parking study, environmental review and will need approval from the Coastal Commission.
Boardmember Ralph Mechur said a final decision will involve more discussions between the schools and City Hall.
“This is a process, there will be a lot more steps and we need to continue to work to be collaborative with the City,” he said.