August 14, 2023

ACTION NEEDED NOW:  Write the Santa Monica School Board. Urge them to NOT go forward with their poorly conceived, very expensive plan to buy the Civic.  

The Santa Monica/Malibu Unified School District is interested in acquiring our historic Civic Auditorium to be used primarily as an additional gym. In order to move forward with this venture, the District commissioned a Feasibility Study (at a cost of $330,000) to determine the upsides as well as the… well, actually, the Study only addresses the upsides. It is woefully short in pointing out potential pitfalls.   

A newly formed group of residents (including some of us at SMCLC) have formed a group — Save the Civic — and have analyzed the District’s study in detail and note the following:

• The venture is highly risky for the School District, which would need to morph itself into a landlord/events manager as it attempts to rent this primarily gym space to other parties for other purposes for almost one-third of every year. Could a gym be constructed to accommodate all the different uses it would require in order to attract all the different tenants it would need to pay for itself? For example, a gym would not have a world-class sound system or the acoustics necessary to be a first-rate concert venue.

• The study says refurbishing the Civic could cost almost $140 million! And we know the cost would be higher because that number doesn’t even include the cost of buying the Civic from the City, which could be tens of millions of dollars. And based on the District’s past, how confident are you that their estimated construction costs won’t balloon dramatically. The correct answer is not very. 

• And how will the School District pay for what could be closer to $200 million for what will mostly be a gym? The short answer is it won’t. You will. The District will ask voters to approve a new bond to finance this adventure.  So residents, who own the Civic, having already paid for it once, will now have to pay for it again. It’s like if you bought a house, sold it, then had to pay the new owner’s construction costs to refurbish it.

Save the Civic ( just sent its analysis to the School Board, pointing out some of these pitfalls and wondering why their very expensive report didn’t address them. You can find its letter and analysis here:  

Likewise, SMCLC also urges the District not to go through with this risky scheme, and if they do, for the Council to reject it.    

We ask that you please write the School Board at and the Facilities Advisory Committee at and urge them NOT to go forward with their plan to buy the Civic.  The school board meets this Thursday to discuss whether to proceed.   

We believe the historic Santa Monica Civic should be rehabilitated and used for its historical purpose: as a world-class site for concerts and the performing arts. Such a venue would have tremendous and long-lasting economic benefits for City coffers, as well as residents, local restaurants, merchants, etc. All would feel the ripple effect of having a world-class venue and an economic juggernaut in the heart of our City. Something a gym will never do.