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Pomona close to requiring 1% public art fee from developers

November 9, 2011 |  8:45 am

Pomona's Landmark 1930s Fox Theater
Pomona is close to enacting a new Art in Public Places law that would require private developers to ante up 1% of a project’s cost to commission artwork for each building site.

The city council voted 5-2 in favor of the new law on Monday, with Mayor Elliott Rothman and Councilwoman Paula Lantz dissenting, spokesman Mark Gluba said. If approved on a second reading that hasn’t been scheduled yet, the law is expected to go into effect in mid-January.

The ordinance text says the aim is to “enrich and enliven the community … enhance the economic vitality of the city [and] develop community pride and identity.”

The council also approved an ordinance aimed at encouraging art murals in the city, subject to a government permit.

In drafting the 1% law, Pomona officials looked at what they deemed to be successful public art programs in L.A., Brea, Culver City, Long Beach, Pasadena, Palm Springs, Palm Desert and San Mateo. As a hypothetical, they applied the arts ordinance to a 202-unit residential building for graduate students that developer Hanover Pacific has planned near the campus of Western University of Health Sciences. Under current rules, the $36.5-million project would be subject to about $1.66 million in city development and permitting fees. With the public art add-on, the tab would come to $2.03 million — a 22% increase that’s comparable to the amounts developers pay to offset projects’ impacts on public schools and sanitation.

The 1% add-on would apply to new construction or remodeling projects with budgets of $500,000 or more. It means that developers would spend an additional $10,000 on art for every $1 million they put into construction. Installing the art would be a condition for receiving a certificate of occupancy.

Building owners would be required to maintain the artworks; failing on that would leave them open to being flagged for creating a public nuisance, or having the city do the work, then put a lien on their property to cover the cost.

At a September public hearing, according to a report on the city’s website, 42 people submitted cards backing the public art law, six spoke in favor of it and none against. But council members raised concerns about whether the new requirement would over-burden developers and asked for a more detailed staff report before this week’s initial vote.

Unlike Los Angeles, where the public art policy excludes homebuilders and apartment developers, the Pomona law would apply to residential buildings of 10 units or more, as well as commercial, industrial and non-governmental institutional developments such as schools and hospitals. L.A.’s fee applies to government projects as well as private construction; Pomona’s applies only to private development.

The Pomona law calls for a review process for design plans. Public art can be controversial, and if objections arose to an approved plan, the city council would be the final arbiter. A similar process in Pasadena three years ago canceled plans for $1.2 million worth of colored light tubes and giant hat sculptures in front of the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

The new mural law in Pomona aims to “provide avenues for artistic expression” and encourage painted or tiled works of wall art that are “assets to the community.” The Cultural Arts Commission would be responsible for conducting a hearing on building owners’ requests for mural permits. Prohibited are  murals on residential buildings with fewer than five units or on sides of buildings that front a street. Also prohibited are commercial artworks, electronic or computer-generated displays, and murals that a building owner gets paid to present. 


L.A. to draw a finer line on murals as art, not ads

Some public artworks in L.A. don't credit artists

Pasadena City Council rejects proposed public art works

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: The 1930s Fox Theater is a Pomona landmark. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times