CITY HALL — While all signs are pointing to billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad building a new museum in Downtown Los Angeles to house his expansive art collection, city officials remain confident that Santa Monica is still his best option.

Broad said this week that he is willing to pay the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) $7.7 million for a 99-year lease on public land at the corner of Grand Avenue and Second Street, winning over a public opponent of his plan in Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich.

Considering Santa Monica City Hall is willing to offer Broad prime real estate in the Civic Center for only $1 for the same 99-year term, it seems Broad has his mind made up that he’d rather be in L.A.

Broad, the philanthropist and art collector whose worth Forbes magazine estimates at $5.7 billion, already has promised both cities he will pay the museum’s full construction cost of up to $100 million and provide a $200-million endowment that would yield an estimated $12 million a year to cover the museum’s operating expenses.

The museum would feature a collection of more than 2,000 works by artists including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons and others that Broad and his wife, Edythe, have amassed.

City officials said they are not feeling pressure to sweeten their offer to Broad and have received other offers to create a cultural center. They feel Santa Monica’s location is far superior than the Grand Avenue site and the deal is more financially beneficial to Broad.

“I don’t think you sweeten a deal unless you are asked and I think our deal is still the superior of the two,” said Santa Monica Councilman Richard Bloom. “I think it appears Mr. Broad is leaning toward the city of Los Angeles, but I think we are still in the running. It’s not over.”

City Manager Rod Gould said he is not oblivious to media reports in which Broad has expressed his preference to locate his museum in L.A., however, he’s not ready to throw in the towel. Gould has had conversations with Broad’s attorney, who told him that Broad’s preference is to get clearance to build in L.A. and Santa Monica and then see what works best.

“What is less reported is that Santa Monica has offered him the most direct avenue to building a museum, with a parcel that is in far better shape, easier to build on and faster process in which to build,” Gould said. “And it would probably be less expensive than what he would have to pay in L.A.”

Broad must win approval from four agencies in L.A. before he could move forward; the City Council, Community Redevelopment Agency, the county Board of Supervisors and a special joint authority overseeing the project.

Broad cleared one hurdle Thursday, when the redevelopment agency agreed to invest $30 million into the museum and a parking facility.

Karen Denne, a spokeswoman for the Broad Art Foundation, said Santa Monica is still in play.

“There are four rounds of approvals in Los Angeles, so Santa Monica remains a viable option until we know that the project in Los Angeles is able to move forward.”

City Hall has offered Broad eight acres of land in the Civic Center at a rent of $1 a year for 99 years, and has also offered to contribute $1 million toward construction costs.

In a letter to the Board of Supervisors, the Los Angeles City Council and the CRA, Broad said the $7.7 million he is willing to pay for the L.A. lease “is based on a recent valuation” done by the county.

The museum would include 30,000 to 35,000 square feet of gallery space, 45,000 to 50,000 square feet to store art not on display, and 14,000 square feet for offices, a conference space and a museum store, Denne said.

Mega-developer Related Companies, which is a major player on Grand Avenue, has relinquished a portion of its development rights without asking for compensation because it believes the museum will increase the value of the project, Denne said.

Broad has also offered to pay $15 million of the projected $23 million cost to build a 300-space parking garage at the Grand Avenue site.

Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver, who has been critical of the project, said he would be “thrilled” if Broad offered City Hall $7.7 million for a lease.

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