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Pedestrians pass a painted utility box on West Main Street at Pine Street in Santa Maria in August. City officials are appointing members of a new public art committee to discuss how to fund a program that could bring more paintings, murals and monuments to Santa Maria.

Len Wood, Staff

The Santa Maria Planning Commission appointed two members Wednesday morning to a new committee created to guide public art in the city.

Citing concerns from the development community, worries about funding sources and the role of government, the Santa Maria City Council voted in October to stall a plan to encourage the creation of public art in the city by creating a special committee to review the plan. The board also determined that the committee would be comprised of one City Council member, two planning commissioners, two recreation and parks commissioners, and two members of the development and arts community. 

Commissioners Tom Lopez and Kelly White O’Neill were appointed to the committee Wednesday. They will join Recreation and Parks Commissioners Laura Henderson and Rebecca Carey and Councilman Michael Moats. Judy Frost will serve as one of the art community representatives, with another still to be added, along with two development community representatives. 

Work on the Santa Maria Public Art Plan started two years ago with a main goal of supporting Santa Maria’s identity by “intertwining culture, people, neighborhoods, and ideas to create a memorable urban landscape that respects the past and builds for the future,” according to the plan.

The Public Art Master Plan aims to create welcoming entrances into the city and neighborhoods, encourage Santa Marians to walk more by creating art walks and to allocate funds for public art and its maintenance, among other goals. 

The rub for the City Council has been how to pay for the creation and maintenance of public art, examples of which include memorials, historical monuments, installations, murals, sculptures, mosaics, decorative features and functional elements.

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The council had the options of attaching a one-half percent fee to all building permits issued in the city and a one-quarter percent fee to permits valued between $50,000 and $400,000.

Instead, city leaders opted to create the new committee to go back to the drawing board to answer the concerns about funding.

“I think everyone has decided that we all love art. It is more of a financial issue, how to pay for it,” Commissioner Tim Seifert said Wednesday.

Recreation and Parks Department's Dennis Smitherman, who has spearheaded the plan, hopes to have the rest of the committee appointed soon, with its first meeting slated for January. 

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.