After 20 enthusiastic public speakers representing school, business, government and private sectors of the community expressed whole-hearted support of a conceptual Eli and Edythe Broad museum of contemporary art in Santa Monica, the City Council voted unanimously at its Nov. 17 meeting to allow the city manager’s office to initiate negotiations for the project.
The concept envisions a museum, art archive and supporting uses being built on approximately 2.5 acres of leased City land, facing Main Street between the County Courthouse and the Civic Auditorium.
This location is within short walking distance of the Exposition Light Rail and other public transportation including buses and bike paths. It is also next to Santa Monica High School, close to the pier, the 3rd Street Promenade and downtown with all it has to offer visitors.
“This is right in the heart of the city,” said Council Member Robert Holbrook, “so it is important that what we do here, we do right.”
As the concept stands thus far, the Broad Foundations would pay the bulk of the costs to design and construct the museum, with the City is paying only a small percentage – estimated at $1 million. Additionally, at the option of The Broad Art Foundation, the City proposes it purchase the private Broad art facility at Barnard Way in Santa Monica, where most of the Broad’s world-class art is kept. This proposed purchase carries a $6 million-price and puts the total cost of this concept to the City at $7 million.
As for the maintenance and operating costs of this conceptual museum, The Broad Foundations would establish an endowment large enough to foot the bill. The City, however, would cover the landscaping costs.
This is only the first step of the official process (even though the City Manager Lamont Ewell took hundreds of steps to lead the City to this deal). The next step is the negotiation table, which may have the most potential to bring the museum to Santa Monica – which isn’t the only community that wants this museum – not by a long shot.
Formally, the City’s Civic Center Specific Plan would need amending. It also requires a hearing before the Planning Commission – which would then formulate a recommendation – and at least one more hearing before the City Council to approve any agreement. Somewhere in that process the issue would also have to come before the Art Commission and would require some sort of environmental assessment.
The City bears the responsibility of ensuring this process be expedited in order to close this deal before another interested party snaps this dream away to its community. This notion sparked some contention among the City Council members; some of whom proposed a type of sub-committee to oversee these negotiations between the city manager’s office and the Broads, while other members said this extra bureaucracy would hinder the speed needed to close this deal.
“Right now, we’re just in consideration, so let’s keep that in mind,” said Council Member Richard Bloom. “I think over time, they’ll realize that we are the superior choice.”