Council OKs RFP for permanent art in front of fire station

Council OKs RFP for permanent art in front of fire station
The city is seeking bids for a permanent public art piece for the area in front of the fire station on Lomas Santa Fe Drive. The project will also include replacing the lawn with drought-tolerant and native landscaping. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

SOLANA BEACH — Although recent conversations about public art have focused on allowing only temporary pieces, council members agreed to consider something permanent in front of the fire station, long thought of as the “crown jewel” of locations because it is clearly visible to motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians traveling on Lomas Santa Fe Drive.

A request at the April 13 meeting to authorize the release of a request for proposals for a permanent piece was on the consent calendar, which includes routine items approved with one action and no discussion.

According to the staff report, the Public Arts Commission, or PAC, debated whether the site should be considered for permanent art and landscaping.

“The rationale was that since the area was such a great location, a permanent art piece with complementary landscaping would best highlight the area for years to come,” the report states.

Councilwoman Lesa Heebner pulled the item for discussion.

“Art has been very controversial in our city, as we know,” she said, adding that her recollection of the master art policy was to allow only temporary art.

“So I was surprised to see this in light of that conversation,” she said.

“It’s a landmark and it’s going to be really difficult to get a high-quality piece of art that we can put there if it’s just going to have to be free and donated and temporary,” said Mayor Dave Zito, who along with Mike Nichols serves as a council liaison to the PAC.

“We’re thinking about art in terms of not abstractly,” Nichols, said.  “I would like us to think more abstractly about it because the landscape in itself could be art. And that was part of the conversation we had.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have a sculpture sitting there,” he added. “And we didn’t want to limit the creativity of the artist so we tried to make it as vague as possible to encourage imagination.

“We didn’t want to direct it too much, and I think by having this flexibility it’s saying that (if) you’re going to invest a lot of time and energy into this as an artist that … it should be considered permanent,” Nichols said.

The grass area in front of the station will be replaced with drought-tolerant and native landscaping that would complement a permanent art piece or pieces to provide a natural-looking environment and help reduce the city’s water use, the staff report states.

Costs for the landscaping are estimated to be between $20,000 and $30,000, assistant City Manager Dan King said.

Based on sculptures and artwork researched by PAC members and the size requirements the artistic portion is expected to cost between $25,000 and $30,000. Proposals cannot exceed $70,000 for the completed project, including design and construction, King said.

Once the RFP period closes, the plan was to have staff and PAC members review all bids and present a short list to Zito and Nichols for discussion and comments.

Based on feedback they will then be presented to City Council to select the preferred design.

Staff will negotiate with the selected team to develop more detailed plans, which will go out for a 45-day public comment period, King said.

The project will again be presented to council for discussion and possible approval.

“I understand the sentiment that it’s hard to get really good quality stuff for free,”

Heebner said. “I would request that when we do get (public) comments that they come as is, not in a chart to the council, and that we go through the process thoroughly.”

She also requested that all bids be presented to the full council before they are short-listed.

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