Public art plan nears council
by C.A. Golman
Enthusiastic developers, architects, artists and residents
packed the city chambers at Tuesday night's City Council meeting
to support the Public Arts Ordinance.
The new ordinance proposes a Public Arts Program that will increase
art in public places in coordination with new development projects.
A Public Arts Fund financed by new development projects will
fund this art.
Any new development projects over $300,000 will be assessed a
2 percent fee of the first $1 million and 1 percent of anything
over that amount. This would apply to all new residential development
of more than four units, reconstruction of more than $300,000,
and all commercial, industrial and institutional recreation building
and public building construction exceeding $300,000. Excluded
from this are school district, affordable housing, nonprofit
social service, historical properties, and private education
Developers will have a choice of having art on their sites or
contributing their art assessment fee to the city fund for public
art. Many other cities that are committed to public art have
established such funds according to Maudette Finck, chairperson
for the Arts Commission. She cited Thousand Oaks, Ventura, Brea,
and Santa Barbara, as having had ongoing public arts programs
for years. Finck, an authority on public art, has led private
and public art agencies and taught public arts administration
at universities throughout her career. Fink added, "We will
encouage people to fund art at their own location so that we
can get public art throughout the city."
Richard Keit, artist and tile maker, and artist-sculptor-architect
Michael Braden stepped forward to support the ordinance. Both
are developing large commercial studio spaces in the city and
will be affected by the assessment. Braden said, "Art helps
us to be alive. Public art will become part of our daily life,
just as public art is part of the daily life in European cities
and towns. I'm happy to donate money that is hard earned to see
public art in this city."
Gayel Childress, Ojai artist and businesswoman who has served
on the Arts Committee as well as the Arts Commission for more
than 12 years, noted the permanent public art work that is now
in Cluff Vista Park and the changing art, as well as the Matilija
poppy that will be in the Arcade Plaza.
Landscape architect Tom Bostrom and architect Marc Whitman joined
in their support of the ordinance. Bostrom said, "Public
art is a sign of a communities economic, social and artistic
Whitman agreed, "The ordinance fits in with the Ojai spirit
and will force builders who are not part of Ojai to support public
art in the city. This ordinance will probably become controversial,
as does everything. It's the Ojai way."
Resident Bill Myly, although in favor of the ordinance, was concerned
about the 2 percent contribution and asked that it be lowered
to 1 percent.
Council member Sue Horgan said, "I am not comfortable with
the fee imposed on private developers. It also adds another layer
of bureaucracy to an already-overburdened system. In my view
it feels like a tax." Horgan asked for the guidelines before
a second reading of the ordinance.
The Public Arts Ordinance presented at Tuesday night's meeting
was considered the "first reading" of the ordinance.
It will need a "second reading" before it can be passed.
According to City Attorney Monte Widders, you can't adopt the
guidelines until you adopt the second reading. He said, "You
can't hold a second reading of the ordinance until five days
after the first reading and you have the guidelines. Thirty-one
days after the second reading it can be published and goes into
Arts Commission member Susan Amend emotionally said, "We
have guidelines that the city adopted in 1994. I've worked on
this for the past two and a half years since I've been on the
commission. I can't ask the commissioners to go back and rewrite
them. They are all volunteers and have their lives, too."
Singer said, "I want to clarify that over the past five
years, there would have been only six projects that would have
been affected by this ordinance."
Later Fink said, "The Los Arboles Project has already done
what would have been required of them. The Ojai Valley Inn, which
has always been committed to the public arts, is also on board.
As we've seen, the arts can have a major impact on a city's economy.
The major revenue in Ojai comes from sales and hospitality taxes.
All the hotels are already booked for the Studio Artists Tour
in October as they were for the Music Festival in June. Hallie
Katz of Human Arts said they had a landslide business the weekend
of the studio tour last year."
Other supporters of the project included developer Fred Plotke,
Stuart Rupp of Nancy Rupp Studio, and artist Richard Matzkin.
Council member Rae Hanstad motioned to do a second reading in
two weeks. The motion passed 3 to 1, with Horgan as the dissenting
vote. Council member David Bury had recused himself earlier because
he had clients who might be affected by the ordinance.
The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 10 at 7:30
© 2002 The Ojai Valley
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