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Council Supports Tentative Agreement on Broad Museum  

By Jonathan Friedman
Lookout Staff

March 25, 2010 --The City Council voted on Tuesday to keep Santa Monica in the competition for a museum housing the world-famous contemporary art collection of billionaire Eli Broad and his wife Edythe.

Broad attorney Deborah Kanter said Eli Broad would decide on a location later this spring. The other competitors are Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. The “agreement in principle” gives the Broad Foundations (the Broad Art Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation) six months “to initiate development of the museum.”

“It’s an extraordinary moment in our City when a family foundation comes forward and offers to invest well over a quarter of a billion dollars ($50 million to $70 million to design and construct the museum, plus a $200 million endowment) into our community,” said Council member Richard Bloom, who later corrected himself about using the word “offer,” saying this should be called a “discussion.”

Although five of the six council members attending the meeting approved the item, some had problems with the details of the agreement.
Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor only voted in favor of the item after receiving a guarantee that two issues she had could still be part of future negotiations. City Manager Rod Gould referred to the agreement as a “broad framework for negotiations that will come later.”

Council member Bobby Shriver, who has been critical of the concept since it was first introduced to the council in November, could not be persuaded. He cast the dissenting vote, calling the proposal “not great.”

“He’s a smart deal guy,” Shriver said of Eli Broad. “You don’t build these companies by not being a smart deal guy. And he’s trying to make a smart deal here. All I have ever said is we should make a smart deal too. I don’t think the deal is smart enough from the City’s point of view.”

Shriver named a series of issues he had with the agreement, including that a majority of the 110,000-square-foot building would not be dedicated to the museum. A minimum of 30,000 square feet is designated for the public museum and the remainder would be used for storage and offices. But Kanter stressed that 30,000 square feet was only a minimum, and the final size could be larger.

Also, Shriver was troubled that the City would not be involved in the management of the museum and he raised various legal issues. He added that the City should issue a Request for Proposals to see whether other wealthy art collectors would be interested in building a museum at the location.

Council member Kevin McKeown said he thought Shriver was getting into specifics that did not need to be addressed at this point. He compared the situation to a possible marriage.


“We are tonight entering into a six-month engagement,” McKeown said. “We are not signing a contract to marry. We don’t need to decide tonight what to name the dog. We don’t have the dog yet.”

The museum would be located on a 2.5-acre City-owned property on Main Street between the County Courthouse and the Civic Auditorium. The Broad Foundations would lease the site for $1 per year on a 99-year lease.

The City would put up $1 million toward the design of the museum. Additionally, Santa Monica would absorb all fees associated with permitting (City estimate of $900,000) and pay an estimated $750,000 to prepare the site for development.

The Foundations would run the museum. After Eli Broad’s death, a Board would oversee the museum’s operation. Nobody chosen by the City would be on that board. O’Connor and Shriver said somebody should represent the City, with O’Connor adding that this person could represent the school district and other local entities that would be involved with the museum.

O’Conner and Shriver also brought up the issue of whether the Foundations would sell portions of the art collection and acquire new items.

Kanter said that had not been considered. O’Connor said she wanted this “flexibility” to prevent the museum from “becoming a stale shadow of itself 50 years from now.”

Council member Gleam Davis cautioned about trying “to run the museum from the dais.”

Council member Terry O’Day, who also had some issues with the agreement, voted in favor of it because he felt “comfortable that we have agreements in principal here that give us a good framework.” He asked Gould what the next steps were.

“The next steps are that we wait,” said Gould, whose statement sparked laughter on the dais and in the audience. “And I say that quite deliberately because until Mr. Broad makes a decision where he wishes to focus his time and attention to create his museum, I don’t think it would be prudent for us to spend additional time and staff work.”

A number of art enthusiasts attended the meeting in support of the museum, including Santa Monica College students and members of the City’s Arts Commission. Commissioner Hara Beck said the museum would “make Santa Monica even more of a world-class arts destination.”

Miranda Carroll, director of communications at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, said, “The addition of the Broad museum would be a remarkable asset to the city. It satisfies the long-term goals of the creative community.”


“He’s a smart deal guy,” Shriver said of Eli Broad. “You don’t build these companies by not being a smart deal guy. And he’s trying to make a smart deal here. All I have ever said is we should make a smart deal too.
   Bobby Shriver


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