Two trustees of the California Science Center’s fundraising foundation say the museum will still be hurt by a revised lease that allows USC to run the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The deal would give USC control of museum parking for major Coliseum events.
Marvin Holen, the foundation’s point person on the USC lease, called the plan a “robbery” because it grants the private university parking revenues that now go to the Science Center, the California African American Museum and Exposition Park.
“If anyone had any sense, they’d dial 911,” Holen said.
The Science Center’s governing board, which is separate from the foundation, could vote as soon as Tuesday to approve the parking proposal and the 98-year lease for the taxpayer-owned Coliseum. The board is the stadium’s landlord.
Science Center foundation trustee Paula Madison said she also opposes the new lease terms because, like the previous proposal, it entitles USC to most of the museum’s garage parking for the school’s football games and other Coliseum events.
The reworked agreement reduces the number of days USC is guaranteed the parking. But Madison said it continues to siphon off the museum’s “lifeblood … not just for personal cars, but also for school buses. These are vital to the education of Los Angeles residents and beyond.”
Meanwhile, the Science Center board and its parent state agency declined to answer questions about the financial effect of the proposed lease on the museums and Exposition Park. They also would not discuss legal issues that could arise from the lease, such as whether the state had an obligation to put the agreement out for competitive bids.
The pact would replace a 25-year lease with USC that was signed in 2008. The Coliseum Commission, which is made up of city, county and state representatives, has already approved the agreement. The commission has said a city charter rule allowed the panel to bypass a bidding process.
Early this month, state lawmakers criticized the Science Center negotiators for drafting what the legislators called a lopsided deal in USC’s favor at the expense of the museums. The Science Center board vowed to go back to the drawing board and released the revised agreement on June 14.
Science Center parking is at a premium because of the arrival of the space shuttle Endeavour. Before the shuttle exhibit opened last fall, the museum received 1.4 million visitors a year; it is now projected to get 2.5 million.
Holen said if the board approves the lease Tuesday, the foundation might file a lawsuit asking the courts to invalidate it on the possible grounds that it is a “gift of public property” to USC. He said the board should postpone the vote until the agreement could be studied further.
The Science Center negotiators declined to be interviewed.
Melissa Figueroa, spokeswoman for the California State and Consumer Services Agency, which oversees the Science Center, said in an email, “We continue to meet with stakeholders in hopes of addressing their concerns.”
In a statement, USC spokesman Thomas Sayles said, “We are pleased with the progress that has been made toward a mutual agreement on parking issues with the governing board of the California Science Center. This agreement will ultimately result in the restoration of a national public treasure, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.”
Under its agreement with the Coliseum Commission, USC has promised to spend at least $70 million on stadium upgrades and pay $1 million a year to the state in rent. The state would also receive 5% of the proceeds from the sale of naming rights to the Coliseum. USC would get 95% of those proceeds and all other revenues, including from non-football events. The public would be guaranteed no other money.
Both Exposition Park museums have increasingly relied on parking receipts. A park fund that gets about 80% of its dollars from parking provides 11% of the Science Center’s state money and 5% of the California African American Museum’s money, according to documents obtained through the California Public Records Act.
The reserve in the fund has fallen from $7.5 million four years ago to $2.5 million, records show.