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City’s Planning Commission reviews public art ordinance

Chris Bashaw, Assistant Editor
4:19 pm PDT August 5, 2014

Members of the City of Malibu Planning Commission discussed the Art in Public Places Ordinance at their meeting on Monday, Aug. 4, but did not reach a conclusion or a motion before press time.

The ordinance is intended to serve as an “aesthetic development standard” that would require the installation of artwork at certain types of new land developments within the City of Malibu.

Developments affected by the proposed ordinance include commercial developments where new construction, remodeling or reconstruction occurs when the total construction costs exceeds $250,000; institutional developments where construction, remodeling or reconstruction occurs when the total construction cost exceeds $250,000; or a multi-family residential developments with four or more units and a fronting public street, where new construction, remodeling or reconstruction exceeds $250,000.

While the City’s planning department reported no correspondence on the ordinance, recreation manager Amy Crittenden said a recurring concern raised by members concerns how art is selected.

“The [Cultural Arts] Commission will still be the deciding body,” she said, “but the members of that commission art not all art experts, so we’re going to be using outside people as a sounding panel to the Commission.”

Should the ordinance be approved by members of the City Council, Crittenden said the Cultural Arts Commission will request “the authority upon members of the community who are experts in art” for input.

Crittenden also said the process for determining if a piece of art sufficiently meets the requirements of the ordinance, however, would vary based upon each specific project. In essence, she indicated the process isn’t anticipated to fit on every foot.

“It’s not necessarily going to be one committee [making decisions] and that will probably based upon each project,” she said of the process. “If the piece of art is a sculpture, then we’ll be utilizing sculpture and architecture experts. If we need to go outside of the city [to find experts], I’m sure that won’t be a problem.”

Malibu resident and developer Norm Haynie used his public comment time to say that while other cities have similar ordinances – ones that Malibu’s is based off of – “it doesn’t make it ethical or appropriate” for Malibu to have one.

“The last time I checked, architecture was a form of art, so it seems to be we should be emphasizing beautiful buildings,” he said.

Haynie added that he was “at a loss” to consider why a statue or other art work placed on or in front of a building would make it more beautiful.

“I like art, but it seems to me that  you’ve have to ask yourself who is benefiting from this ordinance and who has to pay for it,” he said. “We want more ball fields, so why don’t we ask commercial landowners to front some of their cost to fund ball fields instead?”

The next City of Malibu Planning Commission Meeting will occur at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 2 in the City Council Chambers at Malibu City Hall, 23825 Stuart Ranch Road, Malibu.