As city leaders move forward with plans to revitalize the ten acres of public land along Fourth Street between Olympic and Pico Boulevard, a drawing of a chain link fence caught their eye.

While the Civic Center Multipurpose Sports Field’s official design is still in the works, new sketches show an 8-foot galvanized steel chain link fence, topped with 24 feet of netting, will likely encircle the new synthetic turf field planned near the intersection of Pico Boulevard and Fourth Street. The new field for Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District teams will be lined for soccer, lacrosse, and rugby.

“It’s a traditional material for a sports field,” said Karen Ginsberg, director of Community and Cultural Services for the City, of the fence. She said the material was chosen for “cost and expediency.” (Under pressure from impatient parents, City Manager Rick Cole has promised the new field will be completed before Samohi’s current freshmen graduate in the spring of 2021.)

However, the idea of a chain-link fence, 60-foot LED lighting and cinderblock bathrooms near the landmarked Civic Auditorium did not sit well with members of the city’s historical association, the Santa Monica Conservancy.

“The spatial context around landmarks is important,” said member Ruthann Leher, suggesting more landscaping could create a buffer between the bleacher-lined field and the auditorium. “This is our urban core, our civic center. Better to do it right and have a result that reflects well on the choices our city makes.”

The fate of the 73,000 square foot Civic Auditorium has stood in limbo since losing redevelopment funds to fix the building in 2012. The City is looking for a private partner to renovate, operate and manage the 1950’s era property. Bids for the project were due in April. At last Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Cole revealed the City has received one bid with promise that would require significant City funds.

“We have one proposal that has some very positive aspects and a very large financial hole and figuring out whether that hole can be bridged… is not a walk in the park,” Cole said.

The website to track the public bidding process does not yet list any results. In the meantime, the Council has set aside $8.15 million to build the adjacent sports field and broken ground on a preschool on the property.

Planning Commissioner Nina Fresco urged the Council to “avoid the negative impact of chain-link and cinder block in this sensitive location.” The fence will line the walk from the Ocean Park neighborhood to the Expo Line downtown stop.

“Anything but chain-link will do,” Fresco said.

But with cost and efficiency in mind, the Council ultimately agreed to keep the sketch of the chain-link fence when they made several minor text clarifications to the Civic Center Specific Plan Tuesday. After all, they argued, the best quality of a chain-link fence is the ability to see right through it.

“I view it as a temporary solution that will probably need a longer-term replacement once we get a better sense of what we’re doing nearby,” Mayor Pro-Tempore Gleam Davis said.


Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press