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Council Takes Up Pacific Park's Bid for Trapeze School Space

 

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By Jorge Casuso

May 22, 2024 -- The City Council on Tuesday will decide whether to continue leasing a "multi-attraction" space on the Pier to a small locally owned trapeze school or turn it over to Pacific Park, the Pier's biggest leaseholder.

Santa Monica Amusements LLC (SMA) -- the operating group for the 2-acre park bought by the New York City-based private equity firm SC Holdings in March -- is seeking a three-year lease for the space occupied by the Santa Monica Trapeze school on a month-to-month basis.

Two weeks after the purchase, the Pier Corporation's leasing committee voted to recommend awarding the 10,000-square-foot undeveloped space to the amusement park's new operators.

But in order to lease a second space to SMA, the Council must find the company's proposal provides "exceptional community benefit," according to staff's report to the Council.

SMA's proposal for the space located between Pacific Park and the Playland Arcade meets the requirement, according to the staff report from the City's Community Development Department.

The proposal includes rope courses, a climbing tower, an outdoor Pier history exhibit space that fulfills an objective "to preserve and promote the history of the Pier" and an ancillary refreshment/souvenir stand.

"SMA is proposing a substantial capital investment estimated at $1,250,000 including $500,000 to build and program the Pier history museum and exhibits," staff wrote.

"SMA’s financial offer provides an exceptional return opportunity that will contribute significantly to support the fiscal self-sufficiency of the Pier."

The proposal also "meets the exceptional community benefit requirements" by serving more than 70,000 expected guests in its first year of operation, creating "approximately 45 new hires" and providing "new physical activities" on the Pier.

The Santa Monica Trapeze School (SMTS) is mounting a campaign to hang on to the space it has occupied since 2008 and has been operating on a month-to-month lease since 2017.

Kenna Stevens, who owns SMTS -- which offers classes and rents the space for private parties and corporate events -- called the Council's decison "an existential strategic issue regarding Santa Monica's future."

"I cannot compete with a huge investment company run by financiers from out of town," Stevens wrote in a letter to the Council. "I'm a small business, community funded and an individual operator."

"It is true that massive, multi-national companies can pay higher rents," Stevens wrote, "but their enterprises don't attract more people as their offerings are mundane and available everywhere.

"Apart from shutting down unique small businesses and individual operators, these monotonous and uninspired purveyors threaten to destroy the Santa Monica brand."

If the Council awards a 3-year license to SMA, the existing Trapeze School would continue to operate under a short-term management agreement "during the summer months while the transition takes place," staff wrote.

"The City’s Economic Development Division has also been providing assistance to the Trapeze School to help identify other potential relocation sites within the City."


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