Santa Monica Civic Auditorium (File photo)

Throwing around ideas for what the Civic Auditorium complex should feature was easy. Channeling those ideas through spatial and financial constraints was decidedly less so.

Of the 1,698 people who attended the recent Civic Working Group seminar or used online software to grapple with the future of the dormant building and its surroundings, just 125 completed the exercise, balanced the budget and optimized land use, according to data released earlier this month.

It was the second in a series of three workshops to help the nine-member panel formulate suggestions about what the city should do with the cultural landmark and its environs. Redevelopment funds were stripped from the Civic about a year and a half ago.

“The results will not be used as a form of voting for the purposes of decision making,” officials said, “but rather as a way of collecting input to be used to frame the third community workshop … which will in turn inform the Civic Working Group’s ultimate recommendations to City Council.”

The two-day workshop, which wrapped up Feb. 1, invited attendees to learn about parameters and weigh a variety of options for the site, which is within walking distance of the incoming Expo Line light rail terminus.

Portions of the 10-acre plot are already designated for an early childhood education center and the existing Civic footprint, leaving about 4.3 acres up for consideration.

The most popular option was a 2,600-person capacity, privately managed entertainment complex that would cost about $93 million to build but require almost nothing from the city to operate. It could host plays and concerts as well as trade shows, conferences and community events.

There could also be room for a secondary cultural complex, and respondents were more interested in an event space or small music venue than a fine art museum or artists’ facility.

Participants also expressed interest in a variety of private land uses, including restaurants, retail stores and a boutique hotel. Housing and office space were less preferred.

Open space uses were important to respondents, according to the data, with 71 percent opting for a park of some kind. Among those who stayed within an acre of the land budget, the average park size was 2.85 acres.

About half of all participants denoted interest in a sports field, but only 55 percent of those optimized land use and just 10 percent of them balanced the budget. People who wanted a sports field were more accepting of private development than other respondents.

Balancing the budget proved difficult, and 85 percent of those who managed to do it opted for a general obligation bond of up to $50 million. Such a bond would come from tax on property owners at $12 per $100,000 of value and require a two-thirds vote.

Of those who balanced the budget, 77 percent liked the aforementioned entertainment complex, which would not rely on the city for operating costs.

Financing could also come through a revenue bond with a 5-percent tax per ticket, a strategy that has been used for development in Downtown Los Angeles.

Fundraising campaigns, general fund contributions and philanthropy were also considered.

The Civic Working Group’s third and final workshop will be held May 2 at 9:30 a.m. in the auditorium’s East Wing. For more information, visit

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, or on Twitter.

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