Surfing Madonna Mural, Non-Profit it Inspired Could Leave Encinitas

NBCUniversal, Inc.

A popular art display in Encinitas may be relocated if the City Council doesn’t approve a nonprofit’s special events permits.

The mosaic was created almost 10 years ago and was the inspiration behind the nonprofit, Surfing Madonna Oceans Project, which was founded six years ago. The organization plans several annual community events including a special needs surf clinic, educational workshops and runs.

According to a Feb. 12 City Council agenda, city leaders are expected to act on a recommendation to deny “the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project, November 1, 2020 Save the Ocean beach run, and future Surfing Madonna Oceans Project special event.”

In addition, staff is expected to return to City Council with a “recommendation to reinitiate a City community run on the beach and expand programming to provide special needs surf clinics for children.”

NBC 7's Lauren Coronado explains why the beloved mural's days in Encinitas may be numbered.

“This is sad! It all starts right here, with the mosaic,” said Rudy Novotny, a Surfing Madonna race announcer, while standing in front of the colorful mosaic outside Luecadia Pizzeria on Encinitas Boulevard.

He said he was shocked to find out the city of Encinitas has proposed to take on the events.

“The city tells us they plan on doing their own surf camp and their own activities,” Novotny said. “If this action takes place and is successful, what’s next? What other nonprofits may be victimized in an action like this?”

CEO Bob Nichols told NBC 7 the issues stemmed from a “clerical error” when the nonprofit was overcharged several thousand dollars in lifeguard fees for one of their events. Nichols said he asked future events to be taken off the calendar, because of the heightened charge. According to Nichols, when he found out the bill was a “clerical error” he asked the events to be put back on the calendar, but city leaders said they couldn’t do it because of new special events policies.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 12.

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