Santa Monica community members looking for another place to play tennis, run around a track or shoot hoops can now check out Santa Monica High School thanks to an agreement between the city and local school district.
The City Council voted unanimously May 26 to approve a program agreement with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District allowing the city to lease and utilize recreational facilities at Santa Monica High during non-school hours. Such facilities, which are generally under-used when school is closed, include tennis courts, a swimming pool, the track, playfields, a gymnasium, courts, storage space and parking lots. The district will also make equipment and furnishings available for the activities.
In exchange, the school district, which faces continuing funding struggles due to state cuts, will receive half of the annual transaction and use tax revenue from the city. The district is expected to be paid an estimated $5.7 million in half-cent sales tax revenue over monthly payments in fiscal year 2011-12.
The initial term of the agreement will be for 10 years, with the option to extend for an additional 10 years. Subsequent 10-year terms are proposed to provide longer-term access to the facilities, and after some concerns were expressed at a recent school board meeting about termination procedures, staff proposed that any possible termination occur after a public hearing is held.
School board President Jose Escarce spoke about the benefits to both sides with the approval of the facilities agreement.
“With this agreement we are once again re-affirming the expansive and inclusive view of what makes a great community and has made Santa Monica such an exceptional place to live,” he told the council. “We are also further strengthening the unique relationship between the city and school district that has developed and grown over the past several years.”
The city has had a master facilities agreement in place since 2005 for community use of elementary and middle school playfields during non-school hours, but the most recent agreement expands the recreational facilities made available to Samohi.
Opening up the high school’s fields, courts and other facilities will fulfill a city need, as the community demand for playfields and other sport venues continues to exceed the supply of both the city and district, staff said.
The agreement will also help reflect the voice of city voters, who approved the transaction and use tax under Measure Y in the November election, city staff noted. More than 68 percent of voters additionally approved Measure YY, an advisory measure that indicated they would like for half of the tax revenue to be used to support the local schools.
Members of city organizations expressed support for the agreement as a way to implement the voters’ desires for assisting the schools while also addressing a community need for increased access to fields.
“The proposed program agreement will benefit our schoolchildren and entire community,” said Sonya Sultan of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR). “It’s a win for all our schools and all of our residents.”
Rebecca Kennerly, chair of the Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS), told the school board that the group initially had some concerns about the 10-year terms of the agreement, saying they believed the funds sould be provided for as long as the tax was collected. Speaking before the council, she said the group strongly supports the final proposal.
“We’re excited about this agreement and the strong relationship between the city and education community,” Kennerly said.
Resident Richard Cohen told the Board of Education May 19, “I think this agreement represents a wonderful culmination of a tremendous amount of work and it’s a very exciting opportunity.”
Under the agreement, the city and district will establish the available time periods for city use, as well as program scheduling, maintenance, staffing and priorities for use. While the city will have priority over non-district programs, the high school facilities can also be opened for nonprofit organizations and other programs according to the agreement.
Through the approved arrangement, the city is recognizing that education is one of residents’ core values, Mayor Pro-Tem Gleam Davis said. While the state’s funding support has been “shaky,” the local community’s support for schools is unwavering, she said.
“The city is not leasing school property on a square foot basis but rather getting the invaluable opportunity to use the local high school to provide increased recreational opportunities for residents,” Davis said.