Residents lost again at the post Super Bowl brawl in City Council chambers last Tuesday night.
There’s the sports amenity proposed for the parking lot at the Civic Auditorium favored by students, parents and others who would like a “regulation-sized” practice field that can be used by “some 1,000 students who participate in activities such as football, soccer, baseball, softball, lacrosse, track and field and marching band.”
Field advocates say Samohi has been critically short of athletic space and claim they were promised a sports field in 2005 as part of the Civic Center Specific Plan. The Civic
Center is the wrong place for a bare bones practice field, however a compact, fully functional facility with some spectator/visitor amenities might make sense in the context of an assembly area for sports use or cultural events? Just askin’.
Over the years various task forces, committees and working groups have proffered plans for the Civic Center. Almost all of them involve specific uses advocated by special interests. The result is a hodge-podge of unrelated and incompatible facilities being proposed with most parties insisting that their cause should prevail – good, bad or inappropriate.
What was supposed to be a “New cultural heart of the City” – the area surrounded by and including the aging Civic Auditorium – has become a chance depository of government buildings, Rand’s corporate headquarters, parking lots, a hotel, a massive, affordable/ market rate housing project and a $47- million public park.
With the process of reinvigorating the area came those who demanded improvements include a childcare center, athletic facilities, affordable housing and hotels with related amenities such as cafes, cabarets or clubs. The only use apparently not supported by one group or another was a homeless shelter or manufacturing facility – although I may have missed those.
What’s left is a bunch of crumbs and no cake. Unfortunately, there’s no focus, plan, cohesiveness or consistent purpose to the Civic Center. Council seriously erred by squandering City taxpayer resources with approval of a giveaway of nearly two acres of public “recreational” land for SMC’s Early Childhood Education Center while not signaling a more positive go ahead for an enhanced community sports resource that’s more than a scrimmage field for high school ball players.
Not fully approving a 2.8-acre practice field makes some sense because such a facility would alter the potential face of the Civic Center for decades to come. However, so will an ECEC and it was approved.
The ECEC is tied into the college’s curriculum that finds Santa Monica taxpayers in the unique position of subsidizing an academic department in a state supported community college. In addition to giving away some of the City’s most valuable real-estate for a buck a year for the next 55 years (plus options), City Hall is kicking in additional millions more to help underwrite SMC’s construction and other costs.
The ECEC project has been fraught with controversy over the years. Early Childhood education is a big deal with powerful leaders in the Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights political organization who’ve been calling the political shots here since the late 1970’s.
As usual, cronyism and back room deals had major rolls in this latest giveaway of taxpayer’s assets.
For nearly twenty-five years, City officials, Rand and residents have wrangled over development proposals for nearly 12 acres of Civic Center acreage purchased from the think tank for $53 Million in April. 2005 by the City. Among the many proposals was a shared early childhood educational center.
Bottom line, we lose valuable public space for the facility No wonder the parents, families, community leaders, coaches, high school and athletic supporters are crying, “Foul!” Chalk up another reason to overhaul the City Council in November.