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Santa Monica council to vote on Broad museum deal

The pact spells out both sides' basic obligations but doesn't constitute a final go-ahead to build the contemporary art museum in Santa Monica. Other Westside cities are still in the running.

January 10, 2010|By Mike Boehm

The Santa Monica City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on an "agreement in principle" that could hasten Eli Broad's plan to create a museum next to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium to house his 2,000-piece contemporary art collection.

City Manager P. Lamont Ewell has recommended approval of the preliminary pact, which spells out both sides' basic obligations but doesn't constitute a final go-ahead.

That would have to await reviews of the final design of the $40- to $60-million building and its environmental impact on the surrounding Civic Center area.

Santa Monica wants to be reimbursed for any money it spends on preparations for the project if the museum is built elsewhere. Broad's art, science and education foundations are willing to meet that condition.

Beverly Hills and a third Westside municipality that Broad hasn't been willing to identify are also vying for his museum. Broad, 76, has said he wants to keep his options open to make sure the project does not get bogged down in bureaucracy. The Beverly Hills site, at Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards, has parking problems that would need to be worked out, according to Broad, and Beverly Hills would have to acquire the privately owned land.

The Beverly Hills option became public more than a year ago; Santa Monica emerged as a contender in November after city officials asked Broad to consider building on 2.5 acres of vacant municipal land. Now Santa Monica could be close to seizing a further advantage.

The Broad Art Foundation is headquartered in a 1927-vintage building in Santa Monica, but it lacks the parking needed for a public museum, and it isn't big enough to house Broad's entire collection.

Under the proposed Santa Monica agreement, the Broad foundations would get a 99-year lease on the land for $1 a year, would pay to build and operate the museum and would cover operating costs with proceeds from a special $200-million endowment.

The city would kick in about $2.7 million. In negotiations that began two months ago, Ewell wrote, the Broad foundations initially proposed that Santa Monica cover a third of the museum's estimated $12-million annual budget.

But now the proposed deal calls only for one-time city payments of $1 million in design costs, $900,000 to absorb the cost of permits and fees, $750,000 to clear the site and $50,000 to modify a traffic signal. Santa Monica would agree to expedite the design and environmental review process and "collaborate in good faith" with the Broad foundations to create a harmonious design for its planned $18.3-million park and plaza between the museum and the Civic Auditorium.

The agreement calls for Broad to hire "a world-class architect" and build a museum with at least 30,000 square feet of public gallery space. Broad also plans to include space for art storage and research, and would have the right to open a museum shop and cafe. Museum visitors could park in existing municipal garages that charge $8.

mike.boehm@latimes.com

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