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Newly Formed 'Save the Civic' Group Opposes School District's 'Risky' Venture
By Jorge Casuso
August 15, 2023 -- The School District is taking a costly risk that will distract it from its core mission if it purchases the Civic Auditorium from the City, the newly formed Save the Civic group warned Monday.
The group's steering committee raised major objections to a proposed plan for the site of the 65-year-old historic landmark which the School Board will take up at its meeting Thursday.
The plan unveiled Friday estimates it would cost nearly $227 million -- excluding the purchase cost -- to renovate and re-adapt the sprawling building ("School District Releases Plans for Civic Auditorium," August 11, 2023).
"Repurposing the Civic primarily as a gym but also for possible other uses would require a significant amount of District funds," the steering committee wrote in a letter to the School Board Monday.
"We believe this venture is risky and not in the best interest of our public schools, which we strongly support."
"This is a high-risk venture into an area in which the District has no expertise and is a distraction from its core mission: Education," the Committee wrote.
"The cost and risk of this entire venture have to be weighed against what the District, the students and the public would get in return: One additional facility primarily used as a gym."
The purchase would come at a time when enrollment is declining, few housing units are being built for families with children and "the pending breakup with Malibu will add financial stress, the group warned.
"If future annual operating costs are unable to be recouped by renting the Civic as an occasional venue when the gym isn’t in use, then those costs would have to be covered by the District’s then existing budget," the letter said.
"This would cause a corresponding reduction in resources available for other school and student needs."
The committee also questioned a plan it says the District has confirmed to finance the venture by "dramatically' increasing the amount of a bond measure expected to be placed on next year's November ballot.
"We understand the District is considering a new bond proposal in the range of $500,000,000, and very possibly more," the letter said.
The committee noted that an extensive list posted on the District's website of "immediate and longer-term priorities and costs" that need funding does not mention a new gym.
"We imagine that District leadership believes there are important unfulfilled construction needs that are of some urgency or it would not be conducting polling for such a very sizable bond," the committee wrote.
In addition, the steering committee believes the City doesn't understand the community's attachment to the Civic, which has hosted legendary rock concerts and the Academy Awards.
"We believe the City has misread the strong attachment residents have to the Civic as an important cultural and performance space," the letter said.
"To date, (the City) has failed to do all that it can to rehabilitate it for its historic intended use rather than agree to transfer it to a mainly non-public use as a gym."
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