Thursday, May 24, 2012

New San Francisco public art fee amendments permit off-site and temporary performance funding

Last January I noted in a post that San Francisco was contemplating changes to its public art fee program that I believed were significant in the evolution of such fees. Well, I'm here to report that, after a year of wrangling, such changes were finally adopted and became effective in late May. You can access the text of the legislation here.

Like the majority of over 350 other public art fee programs adopted across the country since the Sixties, San Francisco's new public art fee amendments assess a "percent-for-art" fee on new development, which requires that such development use the stated percentage (typically between .5 and 2 percent) of the total project cost for publicly-accessible art. Many percent-for-art programs apply only to public projects; however, San Francisco's ordinance has long applied to all private development within its downtown core. Most percent-for-art fees also typically require that the public art be placed on-site; however, San Francisco's new amendments require on-site public art, but permit the developer to choose to place part of the required art funding into a trust fund that could be used for off-site or temporary public art performances or installations. The permission of off-site and temporary performances or installations for private development is really what is novel here.

As I describe in an upcoming article (I'll share the link very soon), this change in the public arts funding model reflects a change in the nature of public art itself towards temporary installations. As such, San Francisco's new ordinance is a timely model for other cities that might be considering how to update the funding of public art to reflect changes in the medium funded.

Stephen R. Miller

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