December 15 -- A long-standing dispute between the City and the college reached an end Tuesday night, at least for the time being, after the City Council voted again to open the gate to the Bundy Campus parking lot.
The unanimous vote was taken after midnight, after the second of two closed sessions. City TV had turned off its cameras, apparently thinking the meeting was over.
As news of the decision spread, representatives from both institutions expressed relief that possible litigation had been averted.
“I’m glad it’s behind us,” Mayor Bob Holbrook said Wednesday. “It’s been going on forever.”
Under the resolution proposed by Councilmember Kevin McKeown, the City agreed to drop its demand that the college waive its rights to an easement connecting the campus parking lots to Airport Avenue.
In exchange, the City expects the college to drop its request that the City agree to extend the statute of limitations on the college’s claims to those rights.
Barring any last minute reversals, the gate will open in January.
In November, a council motion that would have opened the gate hit a roadblock when the college refused to waive its claims to the right-of-way.
And since Attorney Chris Harding sent the City a letter spelling out the college's claims in late October, City and college leaders have repeatedly met in closed session to discuss “possible litigation."
Calling the latest agreement “a remarkable indication of good faith,” McKeown said “it was not easy to achieve the level of trust needed to bring this forward" during Tuesday's closed sessions.
“We shouldn’t have two of the great institutions of this city suing each other,” he added.
College officials agreed.
“We’ve got to start trusting each other somewhere,” Interim President Tom Donner said Wednesday.
City and college officials also agreed that it was time to foster an atmosphere of cooperation as new leaders take the reins at both institutions. P. Lamont Ewell will take over as city manager in January, and Dr. Chui Tsang will become the next college president the following month.
McKeown and Donner seem to be finding common ground.
McKeown’s motion called for the Council and the College Board to “work together in good faith for the interests of the community as a whole.”
In turn, Donner anticipated that “the college and the City of Santa Monica are going to be working hand in hand” to make sure Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl “delivers on his promise” to install a traffic signal at the campus driveway on Bundy Boulevard within the next seven months.
If that light is installed before July 1, the way will be clear for a long-term -- perhaps permanent -- agreement to allow student access to the lots from Airport Avenue.
Traffic leaving the lots will have to turn right and exit at the intersection of Airport Avenue and Bundy Drive. McKeown made it clear that there was no way he would support an agreement that added more traffic to Sunset Park.
If college trustees go along with the agreement, work on Donald Douglas Loop, which connects Airport Avenue to the parking lots, can start right away.
Students will be able use the new roadway when classes resume after the holiday break.
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