City stretches civic arts canvas

CITY HALL — Larger developments will soon have to meet expanded requirements for public art, part of the City Council's efforts to create a citywide arts fund.

Currently, new projects in the downtown area valued at more than $500,000 must either incorporate an on-site public art installation equal to 1% of the project's total cost, or pay a 1% in-lieu fee to an urban art fund.

A proposal, endorsed by the City Council Tuesday, will require new developments, renovations or additions valued above $500,000 in mixed-use and commercial zones citywide to include a public art installation equal to 2% of the project's cost, or pay a 1% in-lieu fee to support art installations and civic arts programming.

The concept — which the City Council is expected to finalize at next week's Redevelopment Agency meeting — grew from a pitch by Councilman John Drayman to scrap the on-site option entirely and instead require the fee. City attorneys, however, determined such a plan could be legally challenged.

Under the current policy, two planned projects have designed on-site art plans and one small project has paid into the fund, officials said

"There's really no money in the fund right now," said Principal Urban Planner Alan Loomis.

The city's Planning Commission voted unanimously last month to recommend the City Council approve the proposal, despite some fears the new rules would discourage developers from incorporating art into their buildings.

On Tuesday, council members said they would likely vote in favor of the requirement citywide, in the hope of bringing in funds to support both existing arts institutions — like the Brand Library Art Galleries and the Alex Theatre — and new programs.

In other cities, such programs support public concerts like those at the Santa Monica Pier and in downtown Los Angeles, and urban art installations in Little Tokyo.

Several local arts supporters also spoke in favor of the proposal, which they said would be a major step for a city that had long shied away from civic arts.

"For so, so long, the arts seem to have been invisible to the government here and vice versa," said Thomas Metzler, owner of the Metzler Violin Shop on Central Avenue and a member of the Board of directors of the Glendale Youth Orchestra. "I am very happy that this is at least being considered."

Other cities, they said, have successfully used civic arts programming to draw both visitors and permanent residents.

"These are really much needed enhancements for arts funding," said Glendale resident and photographer Arlene Vidor. "It would finally enable our city to takes its place, even a leading position among forward-thinking cities."

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World