Encinitas exploring city funds for public art


Encinitas appears unlikely to follow in the footsteps of neighboring cities that dedicate a fixed percent of city funds toward public art.

Instead, the Encinitas City Council on Nov. 18 said city money for public art should be considered on a project-by-project basis. As a trial run, the city will explore the possibility of including city-funded art with the soon-to-be constructed Marine Beach Safety Center at Moonlight Beach.

Arts commissioner Tim Lueker said steady city funding for arts would promote city character and make Encinitas more of a cultural destination.

“If you have interesting and substantial art projects, people come to see them,” Lueker said, adding more visitors would boost the local economy.

Solana Beach has a development fee to pay for murals, sculptures and installations. Carlsbad diverts 1 percent of capital improvement projects toward arts funding. No such funding mechanism is in place in Encinitas.

A city program for public art would likely need $200,000 to $250,000 a year to have a meaningful impact, according to a report from the Encinitas Arts Commission. Funding for public art could potentially come from a new building-permit fee, the city’s capital improvement program or raising the tax on short-term vacation rentals by 1 percent.

Mayor Kristin Gaspar said the proposed funding sources would add to the already steep cost of living in Encinitas.

“When people are just trying to get up and going as a new artist, it would be terrible to price them out of our community,” Gaspar said.

Michael McSweeney with the San Diego Building Industry Association said a building-permit fee for public art would tack onto housing prices.

Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer said the city is lucky to have an already thriving public arts scene. She advocated for a policy in which publicly funded art is included with city projects. But to receive city funding, artwork would have to compete against other budget priorities.

Councilman Tony Kranz suggested that city department heads identify city projects that are ripe for publicly funded art, and recommendations would be forwarded to the arts commission for review. Then the council would vote on them.

The council also directed staff to bring back more information, including a potential process for deciding which public art proposals receive funding.