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Connecting the Dots Workshop: Civic Center and Samohi Campus:

Community members had the opportunity to sit down and brainstorm about possible opportunities for recreational and cultural joint uses for the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and the Santa Monica High School campus earlier this month.

The idea of utilizing both areas for joint uses is supported by the City’s 2002 Civic Center Specific Plan (CCSP), the City’s 2007 cultural master plan, Creative Capital, and the 2006 School District’s Facilities Master Plan. The Civic Auditorium was built in 1958, is a designated City landmark, and can seat up to 3,500 people. Samohi contains venues that can be used for recreation or cultural events including the 1,250-seat Barnum Hall which was built in 1938 and the 2,500-seat Greek Amphitheatre that was built in 1921.

Karen Ginsberg, the City of Santa Monica’s Assistant Director of Community and Cultural Affairs, noted at the April 12 meeting that the CCSP calls for the Civic Auditorium to be renovated and expanded with 20,000 square feet of space to be used for cultural purposes. It also calls for replacing the auditorium’s parking lot with a park and recreational space. She also noted that Samohi is facing some significant challenges because of its aging infrastructure, inadequate athletic fields and support structures, a lack of green space, difficult vehicular access for drop-off and pick-up, and limited onsite parking.

Community members recommended that that the Samohi campus become a performing arts venue open to the community with a sculpture, art, and fitness walk connecting the school to the Civic Center. They also suggested that high school performances should also be done at the Civic Auditorium. Another suggestion was to have ties between Samohi and Bergamot Station because it already is an artist center. Finally, one community member noted that there was a need for a 700-1,000-seat theater in the City, and that a theater of this size, along with a museum, should be built in the Civic Center.

There were also a lot of suggestions made on how to address the parking issues in the area including building a six-story parking structure at 7th and Michigan, having a multi-tiered parking lot on Olympic Boulevard near Samohi, and creating opportunities for Samohi students to share parking with the community in facilities near campus. Others suggested ways to reduce traffic around the high school, such as having better bicycle access to the campus and encouraging students to walk or take the bus to school.

City staff will incorporate the suggestions brought up at the meeting into an assessment report in June. The City Council and School Board will then each review the report in July.

More information can be found at civiccenter.smgov.net.

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