City Council Oks First Look at Public Arts Program

City officials took the first step recently to create a public arts commission, funded by fees. Photo by Steve Whitmore

The South Pasadena City Council has given initial approval to a program that would set fees on development to help fund public displays of art and establish a five-member public arts commission.

The council at its Oct. 3 meeting also gave its initial nod of approval to declaring So Pas a “creative and innovative city.”

This plan, though, if approved, also will require developers to pay a small amount to a fund that will help pay for public art installations. The council approved the first reading of the proposal and it will be brought back to the next meeting, Oct. 17, for official approval. The council unanimously approved the first reading, 5-0.

After the final approval, the council will begin the process of identifying the members that will serve on the newly formed public arts commission.

The proposed plan would require developers “to devote one percent of a project’s value to a fund that would be used for public art within that development or pay 1.5 percent of the value to a fund that would be used for public art projects citywide,” according to a prepared statement released by the city.


The fees would apply to new residential developments that are of four units or greater, commercial projects of $500,000 or more, and remodeling projects worth $250,000 or more.

“I think we have really good people to make this happen,” said Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Marina Khubesrian, district 2. “There’s so much passion behind the arts in this community. People are willing to put in the hard work…This helps us move forward.”

Councilwoman Diana Mahmud of district 5 agreed, saying she was gratified that this was not just another good idea left to “languish” on a scrap heap. Mahmud also said the city was slow getting to this when compared to other nearby cities but was glad to see it finally moving forward.

“There’s really a renaissance [of the arts] in South Pasadena,”  Councilman Michael Cacciotti, district 4, said during the meeting. “You take a snapshot 15 or 20 years ago and this wasn’t the same city. It’s an incredible renaissance that so many people have worked hard for.”

South Pasadena City Hall will also see an arts-related transformation in the coming months, according to City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe.

The city is going to have art exhibits at the entrance to City Hall, according to the prepared statement. The rotating exhibits will be co-sponsored by the South Pasadena Arts Council (SPARC). The art installations will also include sculptures in the outdoor courtyard that faces Mission Street, according to the prepared statement.

“Beyond aesthetics, public art programs give cities a stronger sense of community and boost economic development,” DeWolfe said in the prepared statement. “We see this as a major milestone in South Pasadena’s evolution as an arts community.”

City officials also said the program will build on a foundation already set-in-motion by community-based arts groups, whose efforts have produced the quarterly South Pasadena Arts Crawls, the next installation of which is Oct. 20, as well as the Eclectic Music Festival that shut down Mission Street this past summer, where thousands of visitors came to hear the music and witness art installations throughout the city, among other art and music festivities.