Charles Andrews opinion piece is another example of Mr. Andrews just stirring the pot, with no concrete recommendations as to exactly what should be done with the Civic Auditorium. Mr. Andrews states that the Civic Auditorium did not turn a profit for 20 years, but that is “irrelevant”. Why would any new endeavor consider a real estate scenario whereby the current owner has not shown a profit for decades? And this is irrelevant?
While the school district can exempt itself from local zoning and not be subject to the City of SM Landmarks Commission, there is no getting around the fact that the Civic Auditorium is a historical resource. Demolishing the building would take a lengthy and very public CEQA process that would ultimately be challenged by law. The SMMUSD is not going through that process. SMMUSD is open to negotiating a Landmarks Commission approval of the project inclusive of a deed restriction that the SMMUSD will not demolish the building.
Regarding non-school use of the facility, SMMUSD is committed to program over 100 days of rentals annually. They will manage it internally or contract with a booking agent or operator. If a private endeavor had the wherewithal to make this work, where have they been for the past few decades ? If the community group, Save The Civic, wants to move forward with purchasing or activating the Civic Auditorium, I wish them the best in raising the 100’s of millions of dollars from a private investor necessary to rehabilitate the property.
“Paying for a property we already own” is a great catchphrase, but lacks accuracy. SMMUSD has not negotiated a sale price with the City. Public agencies frequently purchase or lease real estate from other public agencies. This is standard business practice between public agencies. By way of example, SMMUSD leases the Madison Campus to SMC, who pay rent for the facility. SMMUSD is currently leasing property at the SMC campus during Muir/SMASH construction.
The cost to rehabilitate the property will easily exceed $200 million, whether the school district takes on this endeavor or a private investor. Decades of deferred maintenance by the City has led to this situation. If the City and SMMUSD can work out an equitable arrangement, it is a “win win” for all parties concerned. But the biggest winner will be the public – finally the Civic would be up and running in all of its historic splendor after decades of inactivity.
Michael Dubin, Santa Monica resident