Santa Monica Civic Auditorium | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy

Santa Monica Civic Auditorium

In June 2018, the City of Santa Monica released a Request for Proposals seeking development teams that included an operator for the renovation, development, and operation of the Civic Auditorium. The City has not yet announced the next steps in the planning process. In light of recent budget cuts, we are concerned that the City will put proposals for the Civic Auditorium on hold.

For years the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium has faced an uncertain future. The loss of community redevelopment funds in 2012 derailed the City’s original plans for a multi-million dollar renovation of the facility that called for seismic retrofits, heating/air conditioning upgrades, modern restrooms, and reconfiguration of the auditorium.

The building officially closed in its regular operating capacity on June 30, 2013. Under an interim plan adopted by the Santa Monica City Council on June 11, 2013, the facility is currently operating in a limited capacity. The east wing is used for events, and the main hall marketed for filming. The City and community are carefully examining options for the future of the historic venue.

The Civic Working Group, a nine-member body appointed by the City Council, worked for almost two years to facilitate a community visioning process for the future of the Civic Auditorium and produced two reports in 2015 outlining the group’s recommendations.

The City commissioned the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to examine strategies to revitalize the Civic Center as a self-supporting venue.  The ULI’s Technical Assistance Panel produced a recommendation report that determined that the City should save the Civic Auditorium even though it is not the most economical path. The report offered a vision that included a list of ways the 10-acre site could generate funds to support both the renovations and the operating subsidies.

The local advocacy group Save the Civic was founded in November 2012 as a coalition of concerned community members and local business leaders working towards the common goal of restoring and enhancing the Civic Auditorium’s place as a vibrant cultural and community hub.

Though built as a multi-purpose venue, the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium has in recent years been unable to generate enough revenue to cover annual operating costs. The once state-of-the-art facility has lost competition to other regional venues with more modern production capabilities and amenities.

The Conservancy and its Modern Committee joined with local advocates in seeking local landmark designation for the Civic Auditorium in 2001-2002.