City Council Meeting: March 24, 2009

Agenda Item: 8-A


To:                   Mayor and City Council


From:              Barbara Stinchfield, Director, Community and Cultural Services


Subject:          Authorization for City Manager to Issue a Request for Qualifications from Firms Interested in a Public/Private Partnership for the Use and Programming of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and to Negotiate and Execute an Agreement with Santa Monica College for the Development of the Early Childcare Education Center on the Civic Auditorium Campus.


Recommended Action

Staff recommends that the City Council authorize the City Manager to:


1)     issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) from firms interested in a public/private partnership for the use and programming of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium; and


2)     negotiate an agreement with Santa Monica College for the development of the Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) on the Civic Auditorium Campus.


Executive Summary


Both the Civic Center Specific Plan (CCSP) and Creative Capital place a high priority on renovation and upgrades to the Landmark Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.  Creative Capital made it clear that the use and programming of the Civic Auditorium should align with the community’s vision for its use, and the options for revenue generation and private partnerships needed to be weighed against an anticipated on-going public subsidy.  This staff report requests authorization to issue an RFQ seeking qualifications from firms interested in partnering with the City to ensure its renovation and repositioning as a vital cultural hub within the Civic Center.


The Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) is also an important component of the Civic Auditorium District as outlined in the CCSP.  To foster progress on the development of the ECEC, negotiations leading to a formal agreement with Santa Monica College (SMC) should be undertaken to address roles and responsibilities, design and entitlements, funding and operational details.


In June 2005, the City of Santa Monica adopted an update to the 1993 Civic Center Specific Plan (CCSP) setting forth planning policies and land use and development regulations for a 67 acre area bounded by Pico Boulevard on the south, Fourth Street on the east, Ocean Avenue on the west and Colorado Avenue on the north (see


Civic Auditorium

Policies in the CCSP call for the expansion and improvement of the landmark Civic Auditorium to support musical and cultural performances as well as exhibitions and community gatherings.  The CCSP states that “the rehabilitation and expansion of the Civic Auditorium will give new meaning and life to this important facility and promote its ongoing viability.”


Creative Capital, approved by the City Council on February 27, 2007, committed the City to a cultural use of the Civic Auditorium in line with the community’s vision for this facility.  That vision includes the need for significant upgrades to the building and its technical equipment. Creative Capital suggests that options for its use be evaluated to aid in what is described as a “complicated decision” regarding the future use of the building.  Options for revenue generation and the viability of an on-going public subsidy need to be considered in the decision-making process.  A concert venue model where the Civic Auditorium is leased to a concert promoter was presented along with another model of a multi-disciplinary performing, visual arts and educational center.  Whether a part of this new model, or adjacent to it, the Civic Auditorium was characterized as an “important anchor.”  Creative Capital suggests that the recommendations regarding the Civic Auditorium in the CCSP be revisited to better accommodate the cultural uses envisioned by the community.


The Civic Auditorium was designated as a City Landmark by the Landmarks Commission on November 12, 2001.  That decision was upheld by the City Council during its April 9, 2002 meeting.  The designation included both the exterior of the building as well as specific character-defining features of the interior public spaces. During the summer of 2008, capitalizing on the potential inherent in concurrent development, staff from the City, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) and Santa Monica College (SMC) worked collaboratively with their consultants (Koning Eizenberg Architecture and R.L. Binder, FAIA Architecture and Planning) to explore possible shared use opportunities between the Civic Auditorium and Samohi campuses. Among the recommendations of the study was the idea of a coordinated cultural consortium linking the Civic Auditorium with Samohi’s Barnum Hall and Greek amphitheatre to create a cultural buzz while evening out the parking demand.


Early Childhood Education Center

The CCSP calls for the relocation of the surface parking surrounding the Auditorium and consolidation of public parking into above and below grade parking structures – thus freeing up the lot for other uses.  The plan envisions the development of an early childhood center serving infants, toddlers and pre-school age children that is “carefully designed to complement the form and activities of the Park, and to maintain and reinforce the civic identify of the Auditorium.”    The CCSP states that the ECEC will “add a new layer of activity to the area, while addressing the early childhood development needs of nearby employees and residents.”


On July 27, 2004, City Council adopted a motion directing staff to explore partnership arrangements with SMC related to five priorities identified in the staff report while preserving municipal interests. These priorities included $7 million in SMC bond funding for the development of the ECEC.  In November, 2004 a $135 million SMC bond measure (Measure S) was approved by the voters.  The bond measure included a requirement that a minimum of $70 million be dedicated to capital projects to be completed under Cooperative Agreements.  The ECEC was identified as a candidate project in the bond measure.



Civic Auditorium

The proposed RFQ will solicit qualifications from non-profit and/or for-profit entities interested in a participating in a potential public/private partnership for the use and programming of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.  After review of the Qualification Statements, the City will identify the firm(s) whose qualifications and track-record indicate the most potential for a long-term partnership with the City.  A review committee, comprised of City staff, will evaluate the responding firms’ submittals based on demonstrated experience and degree of innovation, abilities on recent comparable projects, financial capacity and understanding of the needs of this project.  Following review of the submittals, staff will report back to City Council and potentially request authorization to enter into negotiations with one or more firm(s) that best meet the desired qualifications to further explore which partnership and type of management structure will yield the greatest potential public benefit.


Should the negotiations be fruitful, a multi-year agreement with a qualified partner for the use of the Civic Auditorium will be brought before the City Council for approval. The terms of the agreement would likely require the City to contribute to the cost of improvements and upgrades to the facility.


The selected entity will be expected to provide ongoing cultural/entertainment programming at the Civic Auditorium; make a capital investment in the Civic Auditorium to upgrade the facility; reserve a certain number of dates for community use; and explore potential revenue generation of a broad range of uses for the Civic Auditorium, in addition to its primary use as a performing arts and concert venue.  A wide range of management models could be employed ranging from a lease agreement with a private entity that would completely manage and operate the facility to a continuation of City-management with a private entity taking over marketing and booking.


Early Childhood Education Center

The CCSP calls for a childcare center with a maximum 12,500 sq ft building and 7,500 sq ft of outdoor play area.  It proposes that the center be located along Civic Center Drive but be orientated towards the park and be conveniently situated in close proximity to employees at City Hall, RAND, the County Courthouse and the residents at the Village.  The building is meant to serve as a visual screen and noise buffer between the park and the County Courthouse.  The CCSP suggests that the ECEC facility should complement the recreational open space nearby and integrate public art in its architectural expression.   The Shared Opportunities Study for the Civic Auditorium and Santa Monica High School Campuses also addressed the ECEC and recommended that it would be best located between Civic Center Drive and a new Michigan Avenue connection to Samohi.  The study also suggested that the ECEC could possibly become part of a larger building, so long as drop-off, secure access, and separate outdoor play areas could be accommodated and licensing requirements could be met.


SMC has come forward to participate in the financing, design, construction and operation of the ECEC as a laboratory program for its students. SMC included the ECEC in its voter-approved 2004 bond measure (Measure S).  It is anticipated that a private operator will be selected by SMC to operate the facility which will serve 100 children, including up to 24 spaces for infants and toddlers. SMC Early Education Studies students will be able to participate in the center’s services, observe children and teachers in daily interactions, and attend classes on site in a lecture hall.   SMC and City staff have worked collaboratively to begin planning for this new center.  The City Council approved $1.1 million to assist in the planning, design and development of the facility and the City has also secured $500,000 contributions each from the RAND Corporation and the developer of The Village toward design, construction, operation and/or maintenance of the ECEC.  For its part, SMC has secured bond financing in the amount of $7 million towards design and construction costs.


To ready itself for State Chancellor grant funding eligibility, SMC engaged consultants to develop a preliminary program for the center and prepare cost estimates.  This early analysis revealed that the amount of indoor and outdoor area for the center may need to be increased in order to meet State Chancellor standards.  Recent cost estimates now show that the funding gap for the center may be as much as $3 million.  As was the case with the development of the Santa Monica Swim Center, a formal agreement is needed between  the City and SMC that sets out roles, responsibilities, financing and operational details impacting the design, construction and operation of the new facility.   Therefore, it is recommended that the City Council authorize the City Manager to negotiate an agreement whose terms can be brought to both the City Council and College Board of Trustees for review and approval.


Financial Impacts & Budget Actions


The recommendations in this staff report have no budgetary impacts. However, future budgetary impacts may result from negotiations with SMC and a qualified entity who would participate in the renovation and operation of the Civic Auditorium.  These impacts would be evaluated prior to any final commitments.


$1.1 million in Redevelopment Funds (account #C170818) is available for planning, design and construction support of the ECEC.  An additional $6.1 million in Redevelopment Funds (account #C170772) is available for planning and design of Civic Center projects including the adaptive reuse of the Civic Auditorium.


Prepared by:

Karen Ginsberg, Assistant Director, Community and Cultural Services





Forwarded to Council:







Barbara Stinchfield

Director, Community & Cultural Services


P. Lamont Ewell

City Manager