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Developers Now Have More Ways to Back Public Art in San Francisco

While high-rise buildings may make a striking impression on San Francisco’s downtown landscape, they can now contribute to city aesthetics in a different way.


For any new development project or addition of more than 25,000 square feet to an existing building in downtown commercial districts, developers are currently required to spend 1 percent of the construction costs on displaying public art.


Under legislation passed on first reading by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, developers behind non-residential buildings will now have the option of contributing all or part of that fee to a new city fund that will support public art.


Sponsored by Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor David Chiu, the legislation would apply to developers who submit a complete development application starting Jan. 1, 2013, for designated land parcels mostly downtown.


The new Public Artwork Trust Fund would support the creation, installation, exhibition, conservation, preservation and restoration of temporary and permanent public art and capital improvements to nonprofit art facilities in, or within a half-mile of, the district where the development is located.


So a theater company in South of Market, for example, could apply for a grant from the fund to pay for a new youth program. Or the money could be applied to patch up an aging work of public art in the area.


The Arts Commission, which is behind the legislation, has been seeking ways to expand its funding sources and pay to repair its public art collection.


How the money will be used remains to be seen, said Tom DeCaigny, the Arts Commission’s new executive director, who said the agency is conducting a planning process with artists, citizens and developers to figure that out. Also unknown at this point is how much money will be raised, since the fee is optional.


“We’re really excited because we think it’s a great opportunity for developers to be engaged in community development and neighborhood development,” DeCaigny said.


San Francisco Chronicle

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