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Supporters of Simi Arts-Center Measure Still Optimistic

Times Staff Writer

The defeat of a ballot measure that would have led to the construction of a cultural center in Thousand Oaks has not stopped a group of residents in neighboring Simi Valley from trying to build a 1,300-seat cultural arts center in their city.

The Simi Valley Cultural Arts Assn., created two years ago, convinced the city to place an advisory measure on the November ballot that will determine whether residents want an arts center and if they are willing to support a special tax to build it.

The proposed center would cost $10 to $13 million to build, said Don Reynolds, treasurer of the Cultural Arts Assn.

Simi Valley’s center will succeed where the Thousand Oaks plan failed, Reynolds said, because Simi does not have the problems of competing with nearby communities for audiences, has a site available and does not have a large price tag with a need to use redevelopment funds as Thousand Oaks did.

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“Thousand Oaks had several other communities also trying to build their own cultural arts centers. Simi Valley residents have to go quite a distance to find a professional theater,” said Reynolds. “I tend also to think that one of the problems with the Thousand Oaks plan was the way it started. It was developed into something of a controversial issue.”

Supporters of the Thousand Oaks center envisioned a $22.3-million performing arts center attracting patrons from throughout Ventura County and the West Valley. It would have been financed from property taxes collected in a redevelopment district.

Voters on Tuesday, however, rejected the measure with a 54% “no” vote, with only 38.8% of the registered voters participating. Opponents said it showed the voters’ uneasiness with spending millions on the arts.

‘When it comes down to an actual vote of the people as to public funding,” said Reynolds, “if it is explained right, we will not experience any opposition.”

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“The figure we are proposing is not an off-the-cuff cost but a cost researched by a specialist,” said Reynolds. “So that is a reasonable cost compared to what our neighbors are asking for their cultural arts center.”

If the Simi Valley advisory measure passes, the next step will be to determine the exact cost of building the center and submit the plan to the public again, Reynolds said.

The City Council has already set aside a 3.5-acres site at Tapo Canyon Road and Alamo Street for the center, Reynolds said.

The Cultural Assn. has raised $16,000, mostly from the private sector.

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“If the measure should pass, tax and grant money would cover the building cost and any money raised by the association would be a sustaining fund,” said association vice president and special events coordinator, Judy Mikels.

“We have no place really to perform in Simi Valley,” said Reynolds. “A lot of cultural organizations have come and gone because of the lack of performing space.”

Surveys taken by the association indicate that the community wants a professional-level theater, said Reynolds, adding that there has not been any organized opposition to the association’s efforts.

Reynolds said that, if public financing is approved, residents will have to pay about $5 a month per lot for about 10 years.

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“I think you will always have some people who will oppose any amount being taken out of their earnings, no matter how worthy the project,” said Reynolds.

The Simi association, with a membership of more than 200, will present the annual Southern California Classic Film Festival in July as this year’s major fund-raiser.

Fund Goals Reported

The event raised $15,000 for the proposed arts center last year. This year, the association hopes to raise $35,000 to $50,000.

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“If you have a cultural center in the community, it benefits the community a great deal. It lets the schools get involved and allows training for students in theater,” said Reynolds. “It upgrades the community’s pride and helps the business community.”

The center would be open to any professional or amateur organization who wanted to use it, said Reynolds. Groups would have to pay nominal costs depending on the type of organization that wanted to use the theater.

Ticket sales from theater performances would be the major source of revenue, Reynolds said.


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