THE BLOG
08/23/2010 06:23 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

All the Questions No One Ever Asked About the Broad Museum

For close to half a year, the public was bombarded by inaccurate stories about the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation's offer to donate a $1.3 billion museum and art collection to the citizens of Los Angeles. The biggest of these fabrications was they had gotten a special insider deal - available only to them after back room negotiations with the CRA - for a one dollar a year lease on the land for the museum.

Amazingly, no one ever reported - during the entire pre-approval process - the truth about that claim. The fact that the CRA could not lease the land to Eli Broad - or anyone else - anyone at any price, since they had already leased it to the Related Companies. It was not until the end of the process that the LA Times - at last - reported that multiple public agencies had already publicly debated and passed the terms of the lease to Related - and that Related could only charge any cultural use exactly one dollar a year.

But for almost the entire process, the public was completely misled about this.

And that was only the beginning. At least nine other equally false claims were widely publicized, and even now, almost none of them has yet to be corrected.

The real tragedy, though, is that while the press extensively covered all these inaccurate claims, there rarely was any coverage of the dozens of questions that should have been asked about the proposed museum, MOCA, and how they impact the future of Grand Avenue, Downtown and Los Angeles.

So - better late than never - since that the museum was approved by the Grand Avenue Authority this morning - here are just seven of the many unanswered questions that still need to be asked - and debated.

1. To start, one of the many correct reasons for building the Broad Museum on this site is to create a major destination for much needed cultural tourism. But no one has yet asked exactly how LA is going to accomplish this when LA has traditionally had far fewer cultural tourists than other major cities, and our museums have traditionally had fewer people attending them than most major cities' museums.

In addition, why is no one asking why City Hall is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax dollars to shut down the only major hotel in Downtown (and a hotel with many blue collar jobs) which is affordable to the young cultural tourists we need to encourage to come to Los Angeles? And why is no one outraged by this?

2. We also need to ask what are the specific ways Grand Avenue and all of Bunker Hill can be better physically connected with the rest of Downtown - and the rest of LA.

We need to know if anyone at MOCA or on the Grand Avenue Committee is deeply involved in the debate over whether there will be one or two stations on the new subway - the Downtown Connector - directly serving Bunker Hill and Grand Avenue? And if they know about the suggested elevators from the proposed 5th street area station - assuming that station is built north of 5th Street, as it should be - that would not just come up to the sidewalk, but also reach the top of Bunker Hill?

And what is their plan to allow the already proposed Bunker Hill Station to better connect with MOCA and the Broad Collections?

And is anyone at MOCA or the Broad considering plans to make Angels Flight not just a better connection between the old Downtown and the new Downtown - but also make the walk from MOCA to Angels Flight part of the art going experience? And is anyone thinking about doing the same when connecting the bottom of Angels Flight with the cultural resources of Broadway and Historic Downtown?

And if not - why not?

3. And, speaking of the Downtown Connector, since the site for the main underground Bunker Hill Station (which is mainly city owned and is directly east of the new Broad Museum) has to be fully excavated and since there is at least one totally redundant road on the site and two other service roads which can easily be built over - why isn't this site being considered by Jeffrey Deitch and the MOCA Board for the long needed home for MOCA's permanent collection?

With the Broad Collections now about to become an invaluable supplement to MOCA's permanent collection, any new building developed for MOCA's permanent collection should be adjacent to both the existing museum on Grand and the Broad Collections building. There might also be ancillary development rights that could help fund the building. The Geffen and the expansion of it can then be used for touring and short term shows from the permanent collection.

4. Now since the City of LA already largely owns multiple acre site where the Downtown Connector underground station will be built and since the city can also utilize the air space to the west of the Third Street Tunnel to connect the ARCO Plaza to the proposed new MOCA headquarters - and since the SEMPRA owned power generator site is also adjacent - why can't this site also be where the Getty - finally - connects with the urban city and puts its only contemporary collection - photography - right next MOCA, which has a stellar, but quite small, collection in that field.

This would solve both the perceived need for the Getty to have a more accessible, more urban site and it would solve the space limitations which exist on the main Getty Campus. While the Getty has resumed active collecting and continues to buy large photography collections, the Getty is still permanently prohibited - by a covenant in their deed - from adding even a single square foot of useable space - even underground, I am told - to their campus.

So if there is going to be a new Getty Photography Museum Building, it will have to be built on another site. And doing it here would give MOCA and its patrons access to what might become the finest photography collection in the world. And if Jeffrey Deitch would like a tour to explain this staggeringly... complicated... and disastrous mess of redundant and outdated infrastructure, one could be arranged.

5. Ok, so now we get all these new art museums and all this new art.

Exactly where are we going to find the new audiences we need to support our museums? How are we going to develop the new collectors we will need to support first our new galleries and our artists - and eventually, our museums? And how are our artists going to be able to afford to be artists without new collectors ad new galleries to support them?

But no one is seriously debating this issue.

6. When Jeffery Deitch first came to MOCA earlier this year, he said one of his main goals was to make Downtown an international cultural center and to make arts-based economic development one of the most important parts of his mandate. And while he didn't state that has to be done since the city is about to go broke, the rapid economic decline of LA is too obvious to need to be stated.

And yet, when it comes to economic development, it is rare for anything of real substance to ever appear in the press for the simple reasons - there are no official programs of any real substance in this city other than a few 'showcases' artificially grafted onto a dying body.

So how can these goals be achieved? What are the short term, immediate projects that can be accomplished in say... the next 60 or 90 days? What are the one year plans?

The good news is that least 15 new creative businesses opened their doors just this July in Historic Downtown - which is one new business every two days; multiple small theaters are trying to open spaces on Broadway, Fashion Week is now firmly entrenched in Downtown and several designers have expanded their stores in the past few months as new ones still open on almost a weekly basis and multiple creative business incubators are in a state of formation along Main, Spring and Broadway. So clearly there are ways to do this even if no one in economic development at City Hall knows anything about them.

7. Lastly, even though there are dozens of questions the press should have been asking, there was one question the press did consistently ask.

And ask. And ask.

And that was how to connect the cultural giants up on Grand Avenue with all the creative energy that is happening in Historic Downtown. But no one ever went the extra step and asked... exactly... how this can this be done. Because no one who is not a part of our community seems to have a clue as to what to do, and for good reason.

As you can see, the only way to even begin to answer that question is to ask many other questions.

And that is what I will be doing over the next few months.