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Council approves $350K budget for public art project at Abraham Lincoln Park

Abraham Lincoln Park was designed in 2001 with three "alcoves" for art installations, and this week the Burbank City Council approved a project to develop a public art garden there with a budget of $350,000 to be paid from the city's Art in Public Places Fund.

"That's what the money's there for — this is the perfect use of that money," said Vice Mayor Jess Talamantes. "It's long overdue."

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The park is located at North Buena Vista Street and West Verdugo Avenue.

The council in October 2012 had considered a $450,000 proposal to develop a sculpture garden there, along with a program that would have recruited several local high school or university students with an interest in art, architecture or "community improvement" to participate in unpaid six-month or year-long internships to help design the project.

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That project was deemed too expensive by the council at the time, though Talamantes had argued it was a reasonable cost.

On Monday, city staff brought forward a modified proposal with three budget options, of which the one selected was in the middle in terms of costs and came with a recommendation from the city's Park, Recreation and Community Services Committee.

Council members again decided a $450,000 option, which would have allowed for additional landscaping and installation costs, was too expensive. They also rejected a $250,000 alternative, which city staff said would have likely funded only two of the three art installations.

Marisa Garcia, deputy director of the city's Parks & Recreation Department, said the more costly option "is much more attractive when you're soliciting artists." However, she said she wasn't sure the entire amount would be necessary, due to "a lot of unknowns" related to the project.

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For example, the parks department staff had yet to solicit proposals from artists, which Garcia said would have been premature without council approval, and they don't know what type of landscaping each piece might need. Based on other projects, Garcia estimated art for each alcove could range from $130,000 to $180,000 each.

The Art in Public Places Fund, which is funded through payments developers make in lieu of incorporating public art into their projects, had roughly $540,000 in 2012 when the sculpture garden was proposed. It now has more than $740,000, which after any of the three options would leave enough of a balance to pay for maintenance of the city's existing public art, Garcia said.

However, only Talamantes was willing to support the higher-priced alternative. His colleagues favored the lesser amount, but said they would consider increasing the budget later, once more of the unknowns are cleared up.

Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy said she had confidence in the $350,000 option recommended by the city's parks committee.

Councilman Will Rogers agreed and said approving that option would not "preclude" the city staff from asking for more later.

Talamantes told Garcia that he'd rather "just give you the money and [you] not use it all if you don't have to," instead of the department coming back to seek more funding.

In the end, Talamantes joined his colleagues in unanimously supporting the mid-range option, which Mayor Bob Frutos said was "a good place to start."

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Chad Garland, chad.garland@latimes.com

Twitter: @chadgarland

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