Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

City Considers Sale of Santa Monica's Historic Civic Auditorium to Developers

Some residents feel that after two closed sessions, the controversial sale will be presented to the public as a done deal.

In a closed session last Tuesday and this coming Tuesday, the Santa Monica City Council will discuss two offers from developers who want to replace the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium with ten stories of luxury condominiums. The 3000 seat auditorium is part of Santa Monica history, but has been closed since 2003. The move is a desperate measure to right the City financially, by loping off a piece of its Civic Center.

Santa Monica wasn't in great shape financially prior to the settlement over Eric Uller, the pedophile policeman involved in PALS. Uller killed himself. Last April, the City incurred a $122.5 million obligation, agreeing to settle 124 claims.

The City Council won't comment on the bidders. But the City is considering the sale of the historic Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. They conducted a closed session discussion of the potential sale, on July 18, 2023.

Many wondered how it is that the City can discuss such a controversial proposal in closed session. Santa Monica City Attorney Doug Sloane explains:

"We follow the Brown Act by first having an open session, allowing the public to comment on closed session items, then the clerk announces the closed session items; all of the details of the property and negotiating parties are listed in the agenda titles."

"All real estate sales or long term leases must go through the Surplus Land Act process, which began last fall for the Civic, with a public approval of initiating the process. "

"After receiving proposals from potential buyers or lessees, the Council may meet in closed session to consider them and provide direction to our negotiator. Any final deal would have to be approved in open session."

"There must be other options," opines Tricia Crane, Chair of the Northeast Neighbors Association. She believes the potential sale is a violation of the State's Surplus Land act, which requires that any potential sale first be offered to Housing and Community Development.

"The City's Proposed FY24 revenue budget was $747.1 million. Of that, $438.7 million (59%) was for the General Fund, which allows for completely discretionary spending decisions. Yet savings could not be found from this massive pool of General Fund money to replenish reserves or pay for whatever priority is driving these decisions? These general fund revenues increased $24 million, or 6%, since FY22. Department budgets have ballooned. For example, the City Manager's proposed FY24 department budget for consultants ("Professional Services") has increased by $587,171 (101%) since FY2022."

"Without any case being made to the voters, we have no idea if a sale makes any sense. Nor do we have any idea of the structure of any proposed sale. For example, will the Civic: Landmark status be maintained in any transaction regarding its future? Be allowed to be torn down if sold?"

"Also on the proverbial chopping block in Closed Session Tuesday is a parcel the city owns near the light rail station on 4th Street. How will negotiations go for that parcel, which could be developed by the city into 100% affordable housing to help meet state requirements but instead sold to a developer who will likely produce 10% affordable and 90% market rate as has been done with Gelson's," referring to the massive future development planned for the shopping center at Lincoln Blvd and Ocean Park.

If anyone doubts whether we will be railroaded, I remind you of how the SMMUSD Board destroyed santa monica high school's historic main building by demolishing it during covid.


Reader Comments(1)

SMPredicted writes:

SM Observer has taken up the art of reporting on phantom council meeting items. The 2 civic center items were pulled from the last closed session agenda and were not up for discussion. But apparently, in the mystical world of the SM Observer, agenda items posted two weeks ago still make their front-page news. Maybe next they'll predict the rain from this past February.