Santa Monica council to consider ‘agreement in principle’ for Eli Broad’s museum


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Santa Monica’s City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on an ‘agreement in principle’ that would hasten Eli Broad’s plan to create a new $40-million to $60-million museum next to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium housing 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 from the city. That would have to await reviews of the final design of the building and its environmental impact on the surrounding Civic Center.


One condition that the Broad Foundations -- the three separate ones for art, education and science would be housed under the same roof -- are willing to meet is reimbursing the city for any money it spends on preparations for the project if the museum ultimately is not built in Santa Monica.

Beverly Hills and possibly a third Westside municipality that Broad hasn’t been willing to identify also are vying for his museum. Broad, 76, has said he wants to keep his options open to ensure that the project moves along quickly rather than bogging down in government red tape. The Beverly Hills site, at Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards, would require working out parking problems, according to Broad, and Beverly Hills would first have to acquire the privately owned site for him to build on.

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

The Broad Art Foundation is headquartered in a 1927-vintage building in Santa Monica, but it lacks the parking to allow it to be used as a public museum, and it isn’t big enough to house his entire collection.

Under the agreement the City Council is scheduled to consider, the Broad Foundations would get a 99-year lease on the land for $1 a year and pay to build and operate the museum, covering operating costs with proceeds from a special $200-million endowment.

The city would kick in about $2.7 million toward the museum’s creation. In negotiations that began two months ago, Ewell wrote, the Broad Foundations initially proposed that Santa Monica annually cover a third of the museum’s estimated $12-million budget. But the agreement as it stands calls only for onetime city payments of $1 million in design costs, $900,000 to absorb the cost of required permits and fees, $750,000 to clear the site for construction and $50,000 to modify a nearby traffic signal. Santa Monica would agree to ‘expedite’ the design and environmental review process.


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 would park in existing municipal garages that now charge $8. The city also would agree that, as it develops a planned $18.3-million park and plaza between the museum and the Civic Auditorium, it will ‘collaborate in good faith’ with the Broad Foundations to create a harmonious design -- although the city reserves the final say.

-- Mike Boehm


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