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February 4, 2014 > Union City approves utility box murals

Union City approves utility box murals

Submitted By Frank Addiego

Union City has resolved to implement citywide murals, patterned after a successful Hayward program implemented in April of 2009. HaywardÕs program was designed to wrap public utility boxes with paintings to add character and deter tagging by gang members and graffiti artists. ÒFor Union City, I think itÕs more of a beautification program,Ó said the cityÕs planning manager Carmela Campbell.

At the January 28th meeting of the City Council, Campbell spoke about creating murals on utility boxes then including other common targets of graffiti artists at a later time. Asked by councilmember Jim Navarro if there was an Òhonor systemÓ in which graffiti artists would refrain from defacing these murals, Campbell said, ÒthatÕs the feedback weÕre getting, that taggers respect other artistsÕ work.Ó

The city council unanimously approved the mural program. Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci expressed her desire for Òpreference to be given to Union City artists,Ó but open to artists outside the community.

On behalf of City Staff, Campbell requested an initial $10,000 from the public art fund toward painting 16 boxes in Decoto and Old Alvarado. The City would then evaluate the progress of the program and, if there is a positive response, begin phase two which will include murals on larger facilities, possibly including private property.

If the initial phase is successful, the program is expected to utilize the public art fundÕs remaining $58,000. Amid concerns about a single initiative depleting the fund, Campbell said that the City is expecting additional funding from required donations through building projects. ÒWhen developers build new buildings, theyÕre required to donate 1%,Ó she said, Òeither to pay an artist [for a public art display] or pay into the public art fund.Ó

ÒThere is no impact to the General Fund,Ó she said. According to the staff report, the Economic and Community Development Department will manage the mural program with city manager oversight. The Public Art Board will work with staff to create a list of potential artists for the project.

The intended theme of this art is to celebrate the culture of Union City. ÒStarting out, weÕre going to have some general guidelines,Ó said Campbell. ÒThe subject matter of the art has to be focused on Union City history,Ó she said, commenting on how different sections of the city have different cultural elements and that the art will, Òmirror the culture of the neighborhood.Ó

The City will pay artists $600 for each mural. Those interested in creating murals as part of the initiative may contact the Union City Planning Division at (510) 675-5319 or email publicart@unioncity.org.

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