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Santa Monica wants to be home of Eli Broad's Westside museum

November 18, 2009 |  2:40 pm

Eli_broad The Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to launch formal negotiations with art collector and philanthropist Eli Broad to secure the museum he intends to build on the Westside for his 2,000-piece contemporary art collection. 

The plan outlined in a report by City Manager P. Lamont Ewell, proposes that Broad build on 2.5 acres of city-owned land next to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.  It also calls for the city to lease the land to Broad’s foundation for a “token” amount, to put forward about $1 million for design and construction, to provide parking, and to plant and maintain the exterior landscaping.

“The collection is deep. And the collection is wide. And, may I add, the collection is Broad,” joked City Councilman Kevin McKeown during the meeting. “It is a remarkable opportunity for our city. “

The public echoed his sentiments. There were public comments from 20 people, all in support of taking the necessary measures to secure the deal.

Despite their support in continuing negotiations, a few council members remained cautious.

“If it looks too good to be true, it probably is,” said council member Bobby Shriver.  “I just want to caution you all that this is a very competitive process, not only in Santa Monica but around town. There are negotiations with other cities in town for this collection, by other museums in town for this collection.”

He went on to say that the staff report was written in an “exuberant” way, noting that it failed to point out that the small fee for the land would be an "enormous expenditure of public assets" considering it is prime real estate that is worth an "enormous sum." And he questioned the possibility that “the foundation could compel the city to buy a building that has no parking” -- referring to the current Broad Art Foundation building in Santa Monica.

Shriver also said that not knowing which architect Broad would choose was a “gigantic issue,” and warned that details were still unclear over the operating endowment, how many art pieces would actually be placed in the facility, and whether there would be education programs.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Santa Monica,” said Jessica Cusick, cultural affairs manager for the city, after the meeting. “It’s something that our arts community has desired for a very long time. I think it’s going to be a win-win if Broad locates his museum here. It’s a great site for him.  It’s a world-class location for a world-class institution.”

-- Yvonne Villarreal

Photo: Philanthropist Eli Broad speaks during the Museum of Contemporary Art's 30th anniversary gala in Los Angeles. Credit: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters.