Garcetti budget seeks to boost recession-hit Cultural Affairs Dept.

Mayor Garcetti proposes 12.2% increase for Cultural Affairs, including more help for Barnsdall Park

This post has been updated. Please see below for details.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is proposing a 12.2% spending increase for the Department of Cultural Affairs, which would receive the biggest boost during what has been a very lean, recession-racked 21st century for the city's arts arm.

If approved by the City Council, Cultural Affairs would get its first substantial staff increase since shedding nearly half its workers during the Great Recession.

Garcetti's plan would lift the core Cultural Affairs budget to $11 million from $9.8 million. That would mark the first time it has reached $11 million since 2003-04. Accounting for inflation, $11 million was worth the equivalent of more than $13 million today.

The Cultural Affairs staff, led by 2014 Garcetti appointee Danielle Brazell as general manager, would rise to 49 from 41. The department had more than 70 employees in 2008, when it began outsourcing operations at many of the city-owned neighborhood theaters and arts centers to private, nonprofit organizations.

Cultural Grants for Youth and Families, the main grant-making program that funnels money to scores of nonprofit arts groups on a competitive basis, would rise almost 30%, to $2.9 million. The grants range from a few thousand dollars for the smallest groups to $52,000 to $55,000 for programs run by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles Opera and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The Cultural Affairs Department's new hires would include two new managers. One would be the director of Barnsdall Park in Hollywood, overseeing all five hilltop arts facilities, including Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House and the Municipal Art Gallery. Another would supervise operations at city-owned theaters, restoring a position that was cut years ago.

Garcetti's plan would enable the department to hire three art instructors -- one each at the Canoga Park Youth Arts Center, Sun Valley Youth Arts Center and William Grant Still Arts Center in West Adams. Three other new employees would work in the public art division, including one to help coordinate private developers' efforts to meet a city requirement that they provide public art for their projects, and another assigned to the program that shepherds the creation of public artworks required at newly-built or renovated municipal buildings.

Cultural Affairs' core budget reached its nadir of $7.4 million in 2011-12. In 2004 and 2010 the department survived calls from within City Hall to dissolve it and disperse its functions to other departments. But over the last three budget years, the department's spending had rebounded, rising in annual increments of $700,000 to $900,000.

The department's funding typically depends on a share of hotel taxes that is funneled to an arts and cultural facilities and services fund. That pot of money is tapped to pay for the core budget that covers salaries, grants, publications and equipment, and related expenses that are carried elsewhere on the city's books, such as utilities, building maintenance and pensions and benefits.

Factoring in the add-ons found elsewhere in the budget, Garcetti's proposal calls for total cultural affairs spending of $15.5 million. The mayor's plan estimates that $17.4 million will flow into the hotel tax-fed fund during the budget year that begins July 1, up from a projected $15.3 million in the current 2014-15 fiscal year.

"As tourism grows, our budget grows," said Matthew Rudnick, the Department of Cultural Affairs' assistant general manager. "We're pleased with what the mayor has included in the budget plan."

After its long recent history as a budgetary stepchild, the 12.2% core increase Garcetti has proposed for Cultural Affairs compares favorably to many other city agencies. Core funding for the sector of the budget that includes most city agencies would rise 6.5% if adopted by the City Council.

Overall, Garcetti has called for $8.57 billion in city spending for 2015-16, an increase of 5.5%.

For the Record, April 22, 10:05 a.m.: an earlier version of this post incorrectly gave Matthew Rudnick's first name as Michael.

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