Public Arts Commission, council review new plan

The fight for art in Los Altos continued last week as the Public Arts Commission met with the city council to discuss its freshly tuned tactical arts plan.

After the council blasted the commission’s proposed Public Art Master Plan last year, commissioners decided to regroup and craft something more palatable – a tactical plan with events scheduled throughout the year. Events in the final plan included:

• Spotlight on Art, a live art demonstration that would be scheduled twice a month for the duration of the Downtown Los Altos Farmers’ Market.

• Three SmartArt lectures – one in each of the remaining quarters of the year.

• A holiday craft event for children scheduled during the annual Los Altos Holiday Stroll.

• A citywide community art project that could be held on the Downtown Green during its summer run. Previous commission suggestions for the project included a mural, with an on-site artist painting during heavy-traffic times on the Green.

The plan also included details on new art sculpture searches as well as maintenance and repairs for current city-owned art. The total budget for the plan, which also involved hiring a public arts contractor for four to five months – a move the council has adamantly opposed in the past – was estimated at $145,000.

Councilwoman Jan Pepper asked the commissioners if it would be possible to implement their plan without hired help.

“We’re supposed to be an advisory body to the city council, not a volunteer corps,” Commissioner Paula Rini responded. “I don’t see the seven of us being able to pull off all these projects with whatever volunteers we might be able to recruit.”

To help cover the cost of the proposal, Commissioner Nancy Ellickson told council members that they had two options: the city could provide the funds, or they could go back to the drawing board and seek funding through a developers’ fee for art. If passed, such a program would levy a 1 percent fee, capped at $200,000, per development project.

Several council members, including Lynette Lee Eng and Jeannie Bruins, have stated their opposition to the fee in the past. At the May 8 study session, they didn’t change course. However, Pepper, Mayor Jean Mordo and Councilwoman Mary Prochnow supported directing staff to draft a fee-for-art ordinance. The ordinance will come before the council at a later date.

After the meeting, Rini said she thought the commission’s plan was well received by the council.

“There’s definitely more support for it, but there are two members who are pretty dead set against it,” she said. “I think we moved a few council members a bit, but since it hasn’t been officially approved, I’m reticent to say we have this in place (when) we don’t yet.”

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