DEL MAR — City Council denied a request at the Dec. 3 meeting from the Del Mar Foundation to install donor recognition artwork on a concrete block wall outside what was formerly the administration office of the Del Mar Union School District.
After purchasing what is known as the Shores property from the district in 2008, the city adopted a policy allowing only temporary use of any facility at the site and prohibiting all donor recognition until the master plan is complete.
On May 1, 2012, the foundation was granted a two-year interim agreement allowing it and Del Mar Community Connections to use the building, located at 225 Ninth St.
It is also available to other city organizations and groups that need space to hold meetings.
With donations from community members, volunteers spent the summer renovating the inside and outside of the building. The foundation moved in Aug. 28.
As part of the remodel, board member Betty Wheeler solicited proposals from local artists Mara Bickett and Becky Deller to improve the wall.
The artists created three designs, which were voted on during the August open house. An ocean-themed blue wave wall received the most votes. The foundation collected $1,250 in donations for the project.
After the wall was repaired and waterproofed, Wheeler authorized Bickett and Deller to paint the waves on it and create ceramic bubbles and fish that would contain the names of donors who helped renovate the building.
Soon after, Wheeler said, she learned Friends of Del Mar Parks, which raised millions of dollars in donations for the purchase of the Shores property, “had a serious issue” with the donor recognition.
She said officials with that group told her if temporary recognition was given to foundation donors they would want the same acknowledgement for those who helped buy the site.
The wall is painted and ocean-resembling flora has been planted. Seven large ceramic fish and 47 ceramic blue bubbles that contain donor names are made but have not been attached.
Wheeler said she authorized the pieces to be made before receiving city approval.
“If that was jumping the gun, that was my fault,” she said, adding she was “on a fast track to get into the building.”
“We would like to make it look as good as possible for whatever time we have use of the building,” Wheeler said.
She also said she made it clear to all parties involved the wall would be temporary.
Council members said they appreciate Wheeler’s efforts, especially because the site looks much better now, but they had little choice in their decision.
“To be consistent the city has to deny this request even though it is infinitely more attractive than the wall before it was painted,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “The major donors who helped us buy the Shores park would be first on the recognition list.”
“I have mixed feelings about it,” Councilwoman Lee Haydu said. “I understand what Betty’s done (but) we may be opening up a whole can that we do not want to do.”
The handful of residents who addressed council agreed.
“You are really opening up a bigger problem,” said Joe Sullivan, president of Friends of Del Mar Parks. “If you approve this request I think that you will be opening up requests for all sorts of memorials, benches, fountains, sculptures, art pieces.”
“Essentially we will have opened Pandora’s box,” resident Warren Spieker said. “And let’s face it. Temporary in Del Mar can often take on permanence.”
Wheeler said the fish and bubbles are an integral part of the wall design and it might not look as good without them.
Councilman Mark Filanc suggested mounting the donor artwork inside the building and making new pieces for the outside, a recommendation Sullivan supported.
“Happy with the fish on the wall,” Sullivan said. “Don’t want names on them.”
Wheeler estimated it would cost $1,000 to make new fish and bubbles without names on them.
“It seems a shame that all these beautiful ceramic pieces will have to be remade,” Filanc said.
Wheeler could not be reached at press time to say whether she would have the pieces redone without the names.