SMMUSD HDQTRS — Renovations at the Greek Theatre and a brand new gym planned for Santa Monica High School may be put on hold until City Hall officials determine whether or not hundreds of millions of dollars in redevelopment money is safe from a state grab, school officials say.

City Hall, as part of a joint-use agreement with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, promised $57 million for the first part of a three-phase project to revolutionize the sports facilities on campus, money which may be in question after a state Supreme Court decision upheld the Legislature’s ability to dissolve the entities while simultaneously denying them the right to keep them open in return for cash.

The ruling left municipalities scrambling to determine what projects funded using redevelopment agency money could go forward, with all those inked after June 29, 2011 — the effective date of the bill allowing the agencies to be dissolved — seeming highly questionable.

The school district signed its agreement with City Hall on June 28, said Jan Maez, chief financial officer for the school district.

“The superintendent has been talking with the city manager, and I don’t know if we have a complete answer of what it means to us right now,” Maez said. “What I do know is that our agreements were signed prior to June 29.”

However, the state will be reviewing all commitments of redevelopment funds to determine whether or not the contracts are valid.

Exactly what it takes to be considered “safe” is unclear, be it an agreement to do the projects or actual contracts with companies with funds pledged.

At least one project, the approximately $1.5 million for the synthetic turf at Samohi, was completed just after the start of the school year. The additional commitments are for architectural and environmental services for the Greek Theatre and the new gym.

“We’re not dragging our feet, but we’re trying to get answers on the impacts of those decisions,” Maez said.

If the money doesn’t come through from the Santa Monica Redevelopment Agency, the district would be on the hook for over $50 million worth of improvements.

That would force school officials to take a step back and figure out priorities, said Superintendent Sandra Lyon.

“We have to wait and see,” she said. “We’d need to take another look at the projects. Some are undertaken, some are in planning stages, and we’d definitely need to reevaluate.”

The projects were funded through the city’s Redevelopment Agency as part of the Civic Center Joint Use Project, a vision that called for revamping and connecting the elements that lay south of City Hall including Samohi’s campus and the Civic Center Auditorium.

Redevelopment agencies came under fire a year ago when Gov. Jerry Brown released a budget which proposed killing the agencies and taking the $1.7 billion to plug holes in the state’s deficits.

The first phase of the project included the football field, a replacement gym and the upgrades to the theatre. Future phases were expected to include a football stadium and an underground parking lot, amongst other possibilities.

The facilities were also part of a separate agreement that allows City Hall to permit out the sports fields and gyms in return for half the proceeds of a half-cent sales tax approved by Santa Monica voters in 2010.

That is expected to bring in approximately $5.7 million per year.

ashley@www.smdp.com

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