City Council suspends public art funding in construction projects

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to suspend its policy requiring a public art component on major public construction projects, and will redirect the savings to other uses.

Spending on public art is “simply not defensible” at a time when severe budget cuts are being proposed, Councilman Carl DeMaio said.

The policy, adopted on a voluntary basis in 1992 and made a requirement in 2004, called for 2 percent of spending on projects valued over $250,000 to go to public art. The policy impacted new or remodeled police and fire stations, libraries and, in one instance, a pumping station.

Suspending the policy will save the city an estimated $1.5 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1. But according to city officials, only $634,000 will go to the cash-strapped general fund — which pays for core city services — and most of that sum will be eaten up by payments on a 2009 bond offering.

“There's not much savings here,” Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said.

The council's action means that art projects will be halted if no artist is under contract, and those already under way will be funded only through the current phase of construction.

The exact amount of money that is saved, and recommendations for its use, will be presented to the City Council at a later date. The funds cannot be used to restore library or recreation hours, which are in danger of being halved.

Councilwoman Marti Emerald suggested using the savings to help pay for a new communications system that pages fire stations with emergency calls — the current one is broken and a backup is being used — which would cost $1.7 million in the next fiscal year.

Councilman Kevin Faulconer favored fixing up pothole-strewn roadways.

The lone dissenter was Councilman Todd Gloria, who said his constituents valued public art, and there was no sense in suspending the policy when the savings are so small.

Categories: KUSI