Public Art Ordinance Comes before City Council

The attitude toward public art — like this sculpture familiar to anyone who strolls the Oakland Estuary near the foot of Grand Street — has changed. The City Council will take these changes into account.
Evelyn Kennedy

Public Art Ordinance Comes before City Council

At its July 20 meeting, the City Council discussed an ordinance that intends to make amendments to Alameda Municipal Code (AMC) Section 30-98 regarding public art requirements for future developers.

The proposed modifications would add five terms recommended by the Public Art Commission (PAC) for individuals or entities building new developments in Alameda.

First, it requires developers declare their intent to install artwork on-site or contribute to the Public Art Fund (PAF) before receiving planning approvals. Developers have the choice to contribute a minimum of one percent of building development costs for on-site public art or contribute an equivalent amount into the PAF. City staff believe requiring developers to decide whether they plan to install on-site public art or contribute to the PAF earlier in the process will encourage a more thoughtful and integrated approach to on-site artwork.

Second, the developer must work with the PAC to create a maintenance plan for any on-site public art. The current language in AMC Section 30-98 includes a maintenance plan but does not specify what needs to be included or mandated in the agreement.

Third, the new amendment will allow artists and performers to receive small cultural arts grants without non-profit organization status. Currently, artists receiving grants as small as $500 are required to have non-profit status. The PAC will still only give larger grants (above $2,000) to those with non-profit status.

The fourth amendment allows the PAC to make fund expenditures less than $75,000 without Council approval the last modification would allow the PAC to use the funds for maintenance, deaccession, and conservation of public artwork. This would allow the PAF to be used to maintain the integrity of the City’s public art collection throughout its lifetime. The PAF would only be used for maintenance on an as-needed basis, according to the staff memo.

The Council chose whether to adopt the ordinance, not adopt the ordinance or ask staff to make revisions and offer them at a future Council meeting. Council also had the option to adopt the ordinance but make a revision that would exempt developers who plan to build a development in which all units qualify as affordable for very low-, low- or moderate-income households if the inclusion of the art is an economic impediment to the project’s development.

City staff recommended the Council to adopt the proposed amendments.

The City of Alameda adopted the public arts requirements for new construction in 2003. The section was last amended in 2017 when Council voted to remove the $150,000 cap on the maximum public art allocation, remove the requirement that public art focus on Alameda’s historic and maritime traditions, and remove staff and maintenance costs as an allowable use of the PAF.