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Vote withheld on performing arts

City Council wants further discussion

Posted: January 27, 2009 9:16 p.m.
Updated: January 28, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons. Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons.
Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons.

The City Council held off Tuesday on voting to dissolve the agreement between the city and College of the Canyons' Performing Arts Center.

City Manager Ken Pulskamp advised pulling the item from the consent calendar after seemingly conflicting opinions from the Board of Trustees and COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook.

The memorandum of understanding was set up in 2000, when the city contributed $2.4 million to increase the seating capacity of the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons.

In return, COC agreed to provide a certain number of dates for community groups to perform at the auditorium.

Six people came forward during Tuesday's public comment period, pleading with the council not to dissolve the agreement, expressing concerns fewer dates will be available to local arts groups to make way for money-making commercial acts.

Van Hook said the college is committed to working with community arts groups for the next 18 months to develop a new arrangement.

"We will continue to be a partner," she said.

On the heels of Van Hook's comments, Joan MacGregor, chair of the COC Board of Trustees, asked the council to reconsider the agreement.

"I'm fairly dumbfounded," Pulskamp said. "I thought we were in full (agreement) with the college."

As a result, the council voted to pull the item for further discussion.

MacGregor said there was no conflict between the board and Van Hook. She said dissolving the memorandum may be the best decision, but that it requires much more discussion first.

"We understand (the city is) hurting for money," she said. "We're (also) hurting for money."

Under the existing agreement, about 34 percent of the year's dates were available to local arts groups, Adam Phillipson, managing director of the performing arts center, said last week.

Dates are booked first by groups connected to the college, then by outside groups, he said. Community groups get to pick from the remaining dates, he said.

Besides its initial investment, the city contributes $50,000 annually for the "Santa Clarita Presents" program, which provides community arts grants. It also pays $20,000 annually toward the theater manager's salary.

Dissolving the memorandum would not affect the 2009-10 calendar. The arts grant program also would be preserved.

The 926-seat theater near the corner of Valencia Boulevard and Rockwell Canyon Road cost $18.3 million to build; it opened in 2004.

TimBen Boydston, executive director of the Canyon Theatre Guild, said it's too soon to end the partnership.

"A Hollywood marriage of four years might be (considered) long term," he said, "(but) a long-term relationship should be long term.

"(The theater) has our name on it. We need to support it."

After Tuesday's surprise turnaround, there is no estimation on when the item will return to the council for a decision, said Rick Gould, director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services.


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