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New Website to Debut at Meeting on Santa Monica Civic Auditorium’s Future

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By Hector Gonzalez
Staff Writer

January 28, 2015 --An interactive website that lets residents create possible land-use scenarios for the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium -- and analyze their potential costs -- will be used for the first time at a workshop this weekend to gather public feedback on the building’s future, officials said.

MetroQuest, a Canadian firm, developed the website specifically for the community workshop. The site allows meeting participants to review “all the options” developed at past workshops and meetings and “realistically estimate how much” each scenario would cost, said Jessica Cusick, culture affairs manager for the City.

Participants at the meeting -- set for Saturday, January 31, at the auditorium -- will be handed iPads to access the site, Cusick said.

“People will have an option to make informed trade-offs on what they want. Do they want a park nearby? Are they willing to accept some restaurants? There’s a set of trade-offs on what they would want and what it would actually cost,” Cusick said. “It’s really an amazing tool.”

Monday night, members of the Civic Working Group appointed by the City Council to come up with recommendations for the future of the historic auditorium received training on how to use the MetroQuest website, Working Group member Phil Brock said.

“I think my impressions were favorable,” said Brock. “It’s not the be-all, end-all. But, overall, I think it’s one more tool that can really help us and the public analyze what’s available and what direction we want to take.”

Civic Working Group Chairwoman Nina Fresco said the website brings “a complex set of issued and data together” in one place that can be easily accessed by meeting participants.

“Participants will be able to experiment with the balance between different uses for the Civic Auditorium and the adjacent site with the financial realities of construction and operation,” Freso said.

Saturday’s meeting is the second of three community workshops on the future of the Civic. The first was held in September, and a third workshop is scheduled for March 21, Cusick said.

The final meeting “will tie together the community’s input with the Civic Working Group’s findings” before they are presented to the City Council, she said.

Santa Monica City Council members created the Civic Working Group in October 2013 to advise the council on options for the future of the landmark auditorium.

The group is tasked with studying reports, meeting with experts and working with the public to come up with final recommendations for saving the auditorium.

Its recommendations must make financial sense, however, and have public support, officials have said.

Cusick said Civic Working Group members hope to have their recommendations ready for the council by June.

Saturday’s meeting will be held in the East Wing of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1855 Main Street, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. No reservations are required, and parking is free, officials said.

Beginning on Monday, February 2, and continuing through February 14, residents who were unable to attend the meeting will be able to log onto the website and add their input, Cusick said.

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