PAAC continues effort to require public art in new business developments

A local committee hopes to gain support for public art in private developments as well as public spaces. Pictured is an example of public art at the Sheridan Point Park. Photo courtesy of Michele Seville.

A local committee hopes to gain support for public art in private developments as well as public spaces. Pictured is an example of public art at the Sheridan Point Park. Photo courtesy of Michele Seville.

Last Tuesday, Richmond’s Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC) met to discuss Percent for Art in Private Development, an ordinance that would earmark one percent of large-scale private development project funds for the creation and inclusion of public artwork on the site of new Richmond businesses.

“We want business owners to think about the one percent fund allocation as an opportunity to add art to an already existing, necessary part of their development project,” said Michele Seville, Arts and Culture Manager for the city of Richmond. “If you have to build a fence, ask an artist to help make the fence a space for potential artwork. If you have to build a door, place a piece of art above the door frame.”

For the past ten years, PAAC has struggled to pass the Percent for Art in Private Development, as “many private business owners perceive the ordinance as an inconvenient tax rather than a potential benefit to their business and to the city of Richmond,” said Seville.

PAAC is now preparing to present the ordinance to City Council again, hopefully within the next few months. At last week’s meeting, PAAC members discussed how to strengthen their presentation, beginning with talking to the Chamber of Commerce and Council of Industry.

“It’s important to show we’ve gone out into the business community to propose the idea,” said Seville.

PAAC plans to present City Council with a series of photographs of public art across the East Bay, in order to illustrate how public art can be incorporated into private development.

“We have to orient the City Council to the idea of what public art in private development could look like,” said PAAC member Dayna Holz.

Back in 1997, Richmond considered a Percent for Art Resolution that included both a one-and-a-half percent fee on public capital improvement projects and a one percent fee on private development costs.

However, the economic downturn of the late nineties discouraged City Council from adopting the private sector part of the ordinance. They adopted the public sector requirement, the Capital Improvement Project Percent for Art, but rejected the private sector fee out of fear that it would “discourage developers from spending already scarce money on new projects in Richmond,” said Seville.

At last week’s meeting, Seville presented a 2001 report by former Assistant City Manager Leveron Bryant on private sector investment in public art.

Richmond was “lagging behind other communities in its emphasis of the arts as a complimentary tool to any economic development strategy,” wrote Bryant. By adopting only the public part of the Percent for Art ordinance, and leaving out the private development section of the ordinance, he wrote, “the City Council decided to split the baby.”

In other business, PAAC discussed which groups and entities should be represented on a five-person selection committee that will choose an artist to lead the public art project for Richmond’s Family Justice Center, which has a budget of $23,000. The finished artwork, a sculpture that holds water during the rainy season, will sit outside the building.

Shortly after last week’s meeting, the committee met with the city’s Planning Department to begin the process of reintroducing the Percent for Art in Private Development ordinance to City Council.

This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Percent for Art in Private Development was part of an ordinance proposed in 1997, but only one part of that ordinance, requiring a fee on city capital improvement projects, was adopted that year.

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