Trust fund to inspire more public art in San Francisco

Downtown developers required to finance public art may soon be able to meet that requirement as easily as writing a check.

On Thursday, the Planning Commission unanimously supported a measure by Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor David Chiu that would create a Public Art Trust Fund. It would allow developers who are required to put 1 percent of their construction costs toward public art to give the money to the fund instead of commissioning a project on their own.

The support came with revisions recommended by planning staff, most notably excluding developers with large public spaces from using the fund and consideration for expanding the art requirement throughout The City.

“If it’s good, let’s expand it,” said Commission Vice President Ron Miguel.

Currently, developers of projects of at least 25,000 square feet in downtown near Market Street must spend 1 percent of their budgets to pay for public art installations.

Jason Elliott, Lee’s legislative director, said the new proposal stems from that program’s success and is an effort to improve it by giving developers more flexibility.

The fund would be maintained by the Arts Commission and would be used not only for permanent artwork, but also for temporary and performance art in public places, maintenance of existing art and to support nonprofit arts groups.

“I see this as a proliferation of art in the downtown in various forms of expression,” said Jill Manton, director of programs for the Arts Commission.

Planning staff and commissioners had initially expressed concern that allowing developers to meet the art requirement by contributing to the art fund could damage the integrity of the original program.

“I think in general we feel the program has been successful, in that it has created a kind of very public outdoor art gallery at no public cost,” said Planning Director John Rahaim. “The core of the program I would hate to lose.”

To address that concern, the commission’s support stipulated that the art fund option exclude developers with a public space of 3,000 square feet or more. Requiring developers with large public spaces to commission artwork will ensure an inviting and public nature in those areas, planning staff said.

sgantz@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsdevelopmentLocalMarket StreetPlanningSan Francisco

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