San Diego

Bureaucracy Weighs Down Wire Art in City Heights

A local business group said the city's permit requirements discourage public artwork

Eight wire sculptures adorning the street lights of City Heights will soon be taken down, due to the difficulties of obtaining a permit from the city, according to a local business group.

Executive Director of the City Heights Business Association, Enrique Gandarilla, told NBC 7 that the bureaucratic process of trying to obtain another permit from the City of San Diego is too complex and expensive.

"We will try and avoid having to go through that process in the future because it’s very extensive [and] convoluted," explained Gandarilla. "Honestly, I have not asked for a renewal because it’s so – all the requirements that the art commission has for putting art in the public right of way is so extensive."

About a year ago, the business group bought the artwork from a local artist and hung the pieces across City Heights on Fairmount, Orange, University and Swift Avenue without asking the city for permission, according to the business group.

They installed the artwork under their banner program without realizing that the city has many requirements to get a permit for placing artwork in the public right of way. Gandarilla said their organization was not aware of these rules.

But the association was able to form a special agreement with the city to keep the artwork up for one year, explained Gandarilla.

The office of Councilmember Georgette Gomez said the city created a temporary permit for the installation. That permit is set to expire in October.

In the future, the business group will look for a piece of private property to place the art on, with permission from the owner.

"I asked the artist to walk around City Heights and see if there’s a private location where we could get permission to install them on," said Gandarilla. "Private property is a piece of cake because we just need the owner's permission."

There were a total of eight pieces of artwork, costing about $1,000 each, estimated Gandarilla. He was told the artwork is not valuable enough to justify buying the insurance required by the city's permit process.

One piece of wire artwork did mysteriously go missing at one point last year, according to the business group. It was not clear what happened to it.

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