The debate on the future of the Civic Auditorium rages on. Options are to “demolish” or “renovate” at a cost of $50 million-plus. Renovation would likely involve instituting new revenue-producing resources in the civic center to pay for it.

One of the suggestions offered is to convert the 1,100 car surface parking lot next to the Auditorium into a sports facility. Powerful outside interests including the Los Angeles Kings hockey club and the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer club are pushing for ice rinks and soccer fields. The Bring Hollywood Home Foundation (BHHF) which creates new business models to bring back jobs in the creative/entertainment economy is supporting their effort.

Will a sports complex best serve Santa Monica residents? No. A professional level, free-standing, hockey-soccer sports facility complete with a two-surface ice rink facility and a multi-use sports field on the roof will provide benefits to just a small segment of residents.

BHHF claimed in their recent “Bring Back The Ice” press release, “We… believe this facility will serve the not only the local community’s needs but those of the Greater Los Angeles Area needs for recreation entertainment.” Got it. Santa Monica becomes the playground for the Los Angeles area, but what about something the majority of us can use and benefit from?

I don’t buy their assertion that this is “an exceptional opportunity for the City of Santa Monica to team up with the Los Angeles Kings and LA Galaxy to bring back the glory of the Civic Auditorium it so richly deserves.” How is a hockey/soccer sports complex going to “bring back” the long gone “glory days” of the Civic Auditorium which is basically an outdated concert hall/theater?

Funding such a major sports facility would require a combination of resources that could include crowdfunding, city funding (tax monies) and corporate funding. The proposed sports complex is a big benefit for the L.A. Kings and L.A. Galaxy and there is some value for hockey and soccer youth.

But, the Civic Center needs focus. Shouldn’t we be looking at arts and cultural amenities instead of a glorified corporate gymnasium?

BHHF will make a presentation to City Council in Mid-December. Let’s hope those on the dais just say “no” to this latest takeover by outside moneyed interests.

Parklets a big liability

Reaction was swift to my comments in last week’s column about City Council’s approval of three (not two) parklets or mini-parks to be built onto parking spots in front of three Main Street eateries.  I called it a bad idea. So did a former city attorney who asked me if anyone had thought about liability.

The mini-parks would be located in the street gutters and consist of a platform, seating, bicycle racks, and other amenities such as umbrellas. Adjacent restaurants will partner with the city to maintain, oversee and operate the parklets as part of a three-year pilot program.

More than one person commented that the mini-parks were sitting ducks for an out-of- control car or truck. “People are going to be killed or injured and the city is going to be liable,” I was told.

“Didn’t we learn from the Farmers’ Market tragedy?” offered another reader referring to an incident in Downtown Santa Monica in July, 2003 when a run-away vehicle plowed into a non-barricaded Arizona Avenue Farmers’ Market killing 10 people and injuring 63. The city of Santa Monica and others paid out $21 million to settle dozens of civil lawsuits arising from that crash.

One reader asked if the new green spaces would become encampments for the homeless at night when businesses were closed. Yeah, probably.

Gould gone

I was also asked be a number of people about my reaction to former Santa Monica City manager Rod Gould being forced to resign from his new job at Management Partners.

Last June, Santa Monica’s watchdog group Transparency Project filed a civil complaint against Gould after he accepted a position as vice president at Management Partners in San Jose the month before.

The settlement came after it was alleged that he violated the Oaks Initiative — Santa Monica’s anti-corruption law — by accepting employment after he signed contracts with the Management Partners consulting firm while City Manager.

The Transparency Project is a volunteer group of residents who monitor openness and accountability in City Hall.  Their complaint cited six times when Gould approved  contracts between the city and Management Partners, which he eventually went to work for.

Big congrats to Mary Marlow, Elizabeth Van Denburgh and Project Chair Nancy Coleman. They called the settlement an important victory for Santa Monica. “Unfortunately, residents had to do the enforcing because the City Attorney has refused to do so,” Marlow said.

The Initiative is the city’s anti-corruption ordinance that prohibits public officials from  receiving personal or campaign benefits from a person or organization that benefited from that official’s decision made while in office or employed by the city. Those provisions are in place for two years following the official’s departure from the city.

As part of the settlement, Gould agreed to resign from Management Partners among other conditions. The case received much attention because Santa Monica’s City Attorney Marsha Moutrie had said that the Oaks Initiative was probably unenforceable in Gould’s case because he was a city employee and not an elected official.

Bill Bauer can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com.

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