The historic Civic Auditorium, which once played host to the Academy Awards and rock 'n' roll legends, could close next summer for several years in the post-redevelopment era.
The City Council will review on Tuesday a contingency plan that would go into effect if the state blocks Santa Monica from using $96 million of bonds and bank loans secured last year to fund projects initiated by the now-defunct Redevelopment Agency.
Under a new California law signed in late June, Assembly Bill 1484, the state Department of Finance could also seize money in the city's General Fund which is earmarked for projects, such as the Civic, that are already under contract with architects and construction companies.
A planned facelift and seismic retrofits were supposed to temporarily shutter the landmark venue before a grand reopening, but city staffers now fear $51.9 million in funds to cover the renovations are at risk, and there's not enough money to keep the Civic operating, either:
Given the uncertainties related to redevelopment funding and the fact that significant construction activities have not commenced, staff recommends that the City suspend the project at this time... Staff recommends that the Civic Auditorium close as planned in June 2013 because, in the current financial climate, the City does not have the means to continue to subsidize the operations of the facility, estimated at approximately $2 million per year and growing over time. In addition, staff does not recommend long-term public use of the facility until seismic retrofitting is complete.
Founded in 1957, the former Redevelopment Agency of the City of Santa Monica, was one of the oldest in the state. It revamped portions of downtown, including, more recently, several parking structures and . Major projects are still in the works: the , the and the , among others.
City Manager Rod Gould had previously said the city would move forward to build existing projects that were already under contract before a Supreme Court ruling killed off the agencies as part of an effort to close a massive state budget gap. But Assembly Bill 1484 has shaken up the city's plans.
"Key provisions of AB 1484, as well as the DOF’s aggressive implementation, create significant uncertainty with respect to Santa Monica’s long-planned priority projects," city staffers wrote in a memo. "Provisions that would allow the DOF to raid the City’s General Fund create even greater risks."
The contingency plan calls for the suspension of the Civic Center Joint Use Project, which includes a new Science and Technology Plaza, two classroom buildings, library, student union, cafeteria and art center at Santa Monica High School.
Other projects, however, will continue, including construction of a new library in the Pico neighborhood at Virginia Avenue Park, or move forward at a slower pace.
"While continuing forward with any project poses significant financial risks for the City, staff believes that it is in the community’s best interest to continue forward on certain projects," the staffers' report states.