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Surf City as art city? Huntington Beach weighs ideas for public art master plan

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Huntington Beach officials Monday night began brainstorming what they’d like to see in the first comprehensive public art program intended to promote Surf City as an art destination.

The City Council voted unanimously to direct staff to research public art master plans created by neighboring cities and prepare a proposal with the Allied Arts Board, a city panel that promotes cultural activities and events, that may best suit Huntington Beach.

For the record:

7:05 p.m. April 18, 2018The original version of this article quoted Councilwoman Lyn Semeta as saying, “Six hundred million [dollars] a year comes into our community from tourism right into our general fund.”City spokeswoman Julie Toledo clarified in an email Wednesday that “direct expenditures by Huntington Beach’s nearly 4 million non-O.C. resident visitors total nearly $600 million a year, generating nearly $18 million in revenue in sales tax, occupancy taxes and other fees to the city’s general fund.”

The plan would help provide a strategy for art in public places or on public property. It also would outline procedures for management, funding, public engagement and site selection.

“It has been a goal of mine to do more for the public art program in our city,” said Councilwoman Lyn Semeta, an artist who proposed the concept.

In a presentation, Semeta showcased iconic art pieces worldwide and listed ways that art could provide economic, tourism and beautification benefits for Surf City.

The plan wouldn’t focus only on murals or exhibits, Semeta said, but on public art pieces that are functional or “inspire interactive play,” such as Cloud Gate, a donor-funded public sculpture in Chicago that often is referred to as “The Bean.”

“It’s becoming more and more competitive out there for destinations,” Semeta said. “Iconic public art landmarks are a draw. I think it makes a lot of sense to up our game.”

Several residents spoke in favor of Semeta’s proposal, including Kelly Miller, president and chief executive of Visit Huntington Beach, who said implementing a robust, goal-oriented public art plan could help the city stay competitive.

Mayor Pro Tem Erik Peterson said he supports the proposal because it places an emphasis on collaborating with local artists who “understand the H.B. vibe.”

Barbara Simone of Huntington Beach said public art could have neighborhood themes and showcase the city’s history with help from an “untapped well of talented artists.”

But Kim Kramer, co-founder of the Huntington Beach Public Art Alliance, which put on the first Dumpsters on Parade in the city’s downtown area last year, voiced concerns that the art master plan could be “government overreach.”

One issue raised by several council members was whether rules and regulations imposed by the plan would create obstacles to art.

“Think about Hector Valdez, the artwork where he made the shark,” Councilman Patrick Brenden said, referring to a mural of a great white shark painted earlier this year on a construction wall along Main Street. “It was a phenomenal piece of art. Would he have done it if there was an extensive process?”

Mayor Mike Posey added that the city doesn’t need an “art czar.”

Peterson said the city has only begun the process and that such concerns were “getting into the weeds” before staff could return with more information.

More live city broadcasting?

In other business Monday, the City Council unanimously approved looking into ways to broadcast public meetings, local events and other programming besides using public cable television.

The city manager will return to the council within 90 days with a report assessing other available resources.

Semeta and Brenden proposed reviewing alternative broadcasting methods as many residents have shifted to the internet for news and shows.

“We don’t do anything live except for council or Planning Commission meetings,” Brenden said. “It would be a lot more valuable if we did more live broadcasting.”

The city has been part of the Public Cable Television Authority since 1990 and entered a formal joint powers agreement in 2004. The agreement helps municipalities provide content for local residents.

10-year lease extension for youth shelter operator

The council also unanimously approved a 10-year lease and management agreement for Waymakers to continue operating the Huntington Beach Youth Shelter at 7291 Talbert Ave.

Waymakers, formerly known as Community Service Programs, has helped more than 1,200 children from Huntington Beach and surrounding communities since it began operating the 12-bed shelter for homeless and at-risk youths, according to a city staff report.

Priscella.Vega@latimes.com

Twitter: @vegapriscella


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