Huntington Beach weighs ideas for city’s first full public art program


Huntington Beach is pushing ahead in preparing the city’s first comprehensive public art program intended to promote Surf City as an art destination.

During a study session meeting this week, the City Council heard preliminary recommendations from a city task force consisting of members of city staff, the Allied Arts Board and Visit Huntington Beach.

The Allied Arts Board advises the council on matters concerning the growth of local arts and cultural activities. Visit Huntington Beach is the city’s official destination marketing organization.

Input received Monday will be considered before a final proposal is presented to the City Council.

The final 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.

In Huntington Beach, public and private developers are “highly suggested” to incorporate public art in their plans but are not required to in most of the city, said Ursula Luna-Reynosa, director of community development.

The area covered by the downtown specific plan is the only one where publicly visible and accessible art is required, she said. The requirement has resulted in more than 40 pieces of art.

The city could modify its existing plan with a policy encouraging or requiring public art in private development projects. Developers could be offered relaxed setbacks, increased heights, decreased parking requirements and reduced fees as incentives, Luna-Reynosa said.

Or the city could offer developers the option of paying a fee in place of installing art. That could help generate funds for other projects, Luna-Reynosa said.

Director of Community Services Marie Knight said the city also should create guidelines for publicly visible art installations on private property.

“We don’t really have anything other than the [Design Review Board] process,” Knight said.

Staff recommended creating a policy to help guide the “appropriateness of art with minimal intrusion into artistic expression,” she said.

In May, a plan by the nonprofit Huntington Beach Public Art Alliance to put a mural on the Frontier Communications building on Main Street drew mixed reactions from community members, including some who said people viewing the artwork could increase traffic in the area.

The proposal was scheduled to go before the Design Review Board in June but was been delayed.

Knight suggested further exploring installing art in parks, as the city has $211,000 for it but doesn’t have a process on how to use it.

Other possible funding options are local fundraisers and grants from public and private entities.

Knight described the public art plan as “quite a large undertaking” and suggested it be implemented in phases by addressing procedures that aren’t in place.

Councilwoman Lyn Semeta, who proposed the program in April, and Councilwoman Jill Hardy said they liked the idea of a fee option instead of requiring developers to include art in their projects.

Hardy said she was interested in learning more about private property rules.

“I’ve seen houses painted in colors that don’t appeal to me, but I can see the colors they chose,” she said. “Does that need to go before review? … Who are we to say what they do?”

Councilman Patrick Brenden agreed and added that he supports encouraging local artists to get involved in projects.

“We have so much talent in this community; we need to acknowledge that and take advantage of that,” he said.

Twitter: @vegapriscella