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Public to Weigh-in on Future of Santa Monica Civic

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark


Rusty's Surf

By Lookout Staff

June 3, 2013 -- How can the City save the historic 55-year-old Santa Monica Civic, a once sought-after venue that in its heyday hosted the Academy Awards and legendary performances by James Brown, David Bowie and the Rolling Stones? Even “Weird” Al Yankovic staged a raucously memorable performance there.

That's the question City officials will ask residents Tuesday as they prepare to shut down the Auditorium at the end of the month after the City's loss of Redevelopment revenue indefinitely postponed a $50 million renovation project.

“Please join us to provide your ideas and input on potential uses, operations, and ways to finance the Civic’s renovation,” officials asked the public.

From 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., residents will have a chance to voice their ideas about how best to go about saving the Santa Monica Civic.

The public meeting comes less than a month after a panel of experts from the Urban Land Institute (ULI), including former City Manager John Alschuler, presented a report on how best to save the Civic.

Though the panel agreed that it was important to save the building, which is a local historic landmark, it pointed out that the City would need to find a way to fund its renovation and operating costs.

The panel recommended revising the current Civic Center Specific Plan to create a “cultural precinct” that also would generate the revenue needed to keep the venue running.

Alschuler and the panel reiterated that there is no model for a cultural center that can run off the revenue it generates itself.

The City hopes to tap into the reservoir of local activism to further its efforts to save the Civic, officials said.

A group of local residents, headed by Landmarks Commissioner Nina Fresco, are bent on assuring Santa Monica gets its Civic back.

“Our group has discussed in the past the possibility of a revision of the Civic Center Plan to more clearly define the area and rethink various aspects,” Fresco said after the May 10 ULI meeting. “That might be a great place to start.”

The process will likely be a lengthy one. After the June 4 community meeting, the next stop for the Auditorium is the Council Chambers on June 11.

“The Department of Cultural Affairs will present options for possible interim uses of the Civic Auditorium after June 30th, when it will not longer be open to the general public,” Fresco said. “They will also be presenting options and asking for direction for the steps that will need to be taken in order to get the Civic back.”

There's no question that the Civic Center Auditorium is an important piece of cultural history, playing host to the Academy Awards from 1961 to 1967. Concerts by David Bowie, James Brown and the Rolling Stones recorded at the Civic have been released on CD and DVD and are considered landmark documents in the history of 20th Century popular music.

And the king of pop parody, “Weird” Al Yankovic got his start there, opening for Missing Persons in 1982. He told Pitchfork in a 2010 interview that he was pelted for 45 minutes, adding that people threw “anything that wasn't nailed down” at him.

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