Though the project is fully funded through public art program, some Councilmembers worry about ‘optics’ during City’s budget struggle
Published : Tuesday, April 17, 2018 | 4:59 AM
Weighing what Councilmember Gene Masuda called the “optics” of a fully funded $850,000 Gateway Art project at the Glenarm Power Plant against the City’s financial woes, the City Council, at Mayor Terry Tornek’s suggestion, opted to table a final vote on the project until after an upcoming capital improvement program review.
This was the project’s second Council review after Councilmembers asked the Planning and Community Development Department last month to come back with reviews of perceived safety concerns, the work’s lifespan, and the location selection, and to present the Council with the artwork concepts submitted by the project’s three other finalists.
The proposed public artwork, a piece by artist Alice Aycock to be installed near the southern entrance to Pasadena on the Glenarm Power Plant alongside the terminus of the 110 Arroyo Parkway freeway, was selected after two years of Arts and Culture Commission meetings and public hearings.
The project would be funded through Pasadena’s Capital Public Art Fund, which requires eligible capital projects built in the city to designate one percent of construction costs to the Public Art Fund. This process applies to many large developments in Pasadena.
Over the years, this funding mechanism has resulted in art installations such as the “Three Graces” sculptural installation on the roof of the Trio Apartments building on the corner of Colorado Boulevard and El Molino Avenue.
In the case of the Glenarm Power Plant art project, the funds would come from a City project — two Department of Water and Power capital projects at the power plant site which resulted in a contribution to the Public Art Fund of more than $800,000.
The project would cost $740,000 for the artist for the schematic and final design, working documents, oversight of fabrication and installation, along with a 10 percent contingency. The City allocated $110,000 for “other
project costs.” The project budget appropriation totaled $850,000 from the unappropriated fund balance of the Capital Public Art Fund.
The Council vote Monday night came after numerous hearings and the whittling of nearly one hundred artists down to 18, then four, then two, then after yet another round of meetings and decisions, down to one.
Councilmember John Kennedy quizzed Rochelle Branch, Pasadena’s Cultural Affairs Manager, over the cost and life of the project, contrasting the project to the Jackie and Mack Robinson busts installed in Centennial Park after a $200 million renovation of City Hall that was completed in 2007.
Branch explained to Kennedy that the Robinson busts cost approximately $500,000, and were considered “permanent” works, as opposed to the Aycock work, which was projected to last a minimum of 30 years.
A number of public speakers also spoke out in favor of a different finalist project by Peter Tolkin and Yunhee Min, apparently unaware that the Tolkin/Min project was designed for the Glenarm plant parking lot, which was not even part of the project specifications and was thus disqualified.
“That project is not viable,” said Branch.
Branch also explained to the Council that the Aycock project would not present a traffic hazard, had no dangerous or flashing lights, and was fully aligned with the City’s Public Art Master Plan.
Caltrans had also expressed no concerns over the project, said Branch.
Responding to several concerns that the Aycock project could only be seen by cars on the 110 Arroyo Seco Parkway, the Planning Department staff report noted that “Gateway projects are not intended exclusively for pedestrian visibility. Instead, these projects are most frequently elevated over roads, streets and at the entrances to neighborhoods in such a manner as to provide maximum impact for vehicular traffic.”
The report continued, “Based on the latest Caltrans traffic volume data (from 2016), an estimated 43,500 daily vehicles travel on that segment of the freeway south of Glenarm Street—an estimated 13.8 million vehicles per year, per the Department of Transportation.
“While the proposed project would be visible from the intersection of Glenarm Street and Arroyo Parkway,” the report added, “pedestrian visibility is a secondary consideration as the elevation, size and scale of gateway projects discourages close proximity to the artwork. Unlike the City’s Rotating Public Art Program, which invites up-close engagement with artworks in neighborhoods throughout the City, the Glenarm Capital Public Art Project was not intended for intimate viewing.”
Councilmember Margaret McAustin, who voted for the project last month, pointed out that the Council was “voting on the process here, not on the art. The process was thorough. We have already approved the process. We should honor the process.”