Granada Theatre Holds Off on Fund Request

Supporters of the Granada Theatre beat a strategic retreat this
week, yanking their request for half-a-million dollars from the
Santa Barbara City Council until January 31, rather than face a
barrage of questions and suggestions from increasingly skeptical
council members this past Tuesday.

Granada Theatre executives and board members sought the
money—which would have brought City Hall’s direct contribution to
the ambitious theatre renovation project to $5 million—in response
to drastically escalating construction costs and because the
Granada Foundation needed the cash as a matching grant to qualify
for a $1.3 million grant from the Kresge Foundation. In years past, such a request would
have been a slam-dunk for the politically connected Granada
Foundation, which boasts former Mayor Harriet Miller on its board.
But this request drew either tough questions or outright resistance
from council members Grant House, Brian Barnwell, and Helene
Schneider—despite having strong support from council members Iya
Falcone and Roger Horton.

Part of this new resistance stemmed from the perception that the
Foundation was, in effect, butting in line; that normally the city
council would not begin to entertain such requests until Spring,
after the annual budget process had begun. That way, the council
could compare the Granada’s big ticket request with others being
made. Some of the resistance stemmed from the feeling that City
Hall had already given generously to the Granada restoration—$4.5
million—and that there were other worthy recipients of the limited
funds available in the city’s Redevelopment Agency coffers.
Projects that might give the Granada a run for City Hall’s money
include the De la Guerra Plaza remodel, the transit village
envisioned for MTD’s downtown transit center, and the Cabrillo
Boulevard face-lift that would better link Stearns Wharf with the
Harbor.

Beyond that, many council members regard the $25 million City
Hall spent to build the new Granada garage as substantial donation
to the theatre as well. In exchange for the money, councilmember
Grant House is pushing for specific conditions that would have
required the Granada to increase the sales price of its tickets by
$1, the proceeds to be given to other area performing arts groups.
Councilmember Brian Barnwell pushed for other conditions that would
have required the Granada to set up an apprentice ship program to
teach local high school-age kids the technical skills required to
work the theater’s lights and soundboards. In addition, there was
interest in imposing a condition requiring the Granada to set aside
its facility for free or at half price to certain local production
companies.

What happens January 31 remains to be seen. In the meantime,
councilmember House is holding meetings with local arts groups to
see their interest in the funds—estimated to be about $100,000 a
year—that $1 ticket surcharge would generate. The Granada has
already devised several scholarship programs targeting Santa
Barbara students, and supporters, like Roger Horton, cite the
economic boost performing arts centers like the Granada can
generate. Even at $5 million, Horton said City Hall’s contribution
pales in comparison to what other cities sink invest in their
performing art centers. The latest estimate for construction and
rehabilitation cost is $52 million. When the project first got
underway, the figure was closer to $23 million. The increase is
attributable to sharp rise in construction materials. And
typically, old buildings like the Granada always hold expensive
surprises for contractors seeking to spruce them up.

The Foundation has committed to raising $39 million privately,
but is reportedly encountering stiff competition for philanthropic
dollars from Cottage Hospital, now in the midst of an aggressive
and ambitious fundraising campaign for Cottage’s massive
remodel.

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