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North Park and Two Jerrys

by The San Diego Reader

Governor Jerry Brown and the state legislature are out to kill redevelopment, but San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders is counting on the state supreme court to quash Brown’s efforts so that the mayor can spruce up North Park with some spiffy new artwork. The court’s ruling is likely months off, but San Diego’s Redevelopment Agency has already issued a “request for qualifications” for an “arts and culture consultant to develop a public art master plan for the North Park Redevelopment Project Area.”

According to the document, “Art plays a defining role in the character and image of North Park. The community is currently home to several art galleries, performing arts venues such as the Birch North Park Theatre, and organizations and community events that focus on art, such as Ray at Night.” (There isn’t any mention of the 83-year-old Birch theater’s chronic financial woes and continuing attempts by its owner, Lyric Opera San Diego, to unload it. A big chunk of the price to rehab the theater was subsidized by the Redevelopment Agency, but the Lyric has found it hard to cope with its mortgage payments, utility bills, and plunging attendance, blamed partly on the bad economy.)Still, the 555-acre North Park redevelopment area — whose irregular shape is bounded by Interstate 805 to the east and extends as far as Park Boulevard to the west, Adams Avenue to the north, and Thorn Street to the south — is already quite an impressive cultural oasis, according to the request for qualifications. “There is a strong sense of civic pride in North Park, and for this reason the community is actively involved in redevelopment projects in an effort to ensure high-quality design and construction and to retain the historic craftsman-style homes for which the community is known.”

The new arts plan “must reflect the community’s desire to utilize arts and culture to enhance the sense of community, enhance economic vitality that is linked to arts and culture, and create and support an environment where art and culture thrive and enrich the community culturally, aesthetically, educationally and economically.”

Among the consultant’s tasks: producing “suggestions and rationales for the placement of artwork at specific sites to support and enhance the community’s goals”; “suggestions and rationales for happenings, time-based art, temporary art, cultural events or any other arts and culture-related activities that will support and enhance the community’s goals”; and a “summary of funding models for public art projects.”

The document warns that would-be arts consultants shouldn’t be overly aggressive in trying to line up the City’s business. “Inappropriate efforts to lobby or influence individuals or organizations involved in this selection may result, at the Agency’s sole discretion, in debarment from consideration for future contracts.” In any case, says a note at the bottom of the request, “Please be advised that the City of San Diego Redevelopment Agency is currently subject to a California Supreme Court stay and may not enter into any new consultant agreements until after the stay is lifted, which is not anticipated until early January 2012.”

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