San Francisco public art fee could expand citywide

SF Examiner file photoDevelopers of projects in the downtown area that are in excess of 25

San Francisco’s plan to paint the entire city with a 1 percent art fee for large-scale construction projects is back on the table after it was modified due to concerns from developers.

Wary of additional costs, developers had met in recent weeks with Mayor Ed Lee and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu to discuss the legislation, which would expand an existing fee that has been in place for 25 years.

The City has required developers of projects in the downtown area that are in excess of 25,000 square feet to spend 1 percent of construction costs on on-site art visible to the public.

Now there is a push to expand the fee citywide for large development projects. The money would be spent on on-site artwork or put into a public artwork trust fund, which would be overseen by the Arts Commission, for such things as public installations, art restorations and nonprofit art groups.

Today, the legislation returns to the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee after a vote was postponed for three weeks amid concerns from developers.

Chiu is expected to announce modifications to the proposal, which could include exempting residential developments, which already face costly requirements such as affordable housing.

When introduced in July, Chiu said, “With this proposal, we are building on the success of the downtown public art fee and expanding its scope to enhance the arts in our densest neighborhood. We are also supporting local artists and arts organizations, who often struggle to create art in San Francisco in a challenging economic era.”

The 1 percent fee can add up. In 1997, a development at 55 Second St. was required to spend $500,000 on on-site art.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com