At its December 20 meeting, the Long Beach City Council voted unanimously to move forward with a Percent for the Arts Program with a goal of reaching $750,000 over the next three years.


“I think a Percent for the Arts Program gives the city and its residents, developers and businesspeople a sense of a vision of what arts and culture is. Arts and culture are an important part of a city fabric, and every district should have arts and culture,” Griselda Suarez, executive director of the Arts Council for Long Beach, said. “Envisioning Long Beach to be a thriving economy that includes the creative economy makes us distinct. We’re a very special city.”


According to city documents, the proposed best practices at this stage of the program call for a 1% assessment of the cost of all eligible capital construction projects by the city that exceed $100,000. However, to ensure the fee does not overburden large projects, the fee will not exceed $500,000.


The monies generated by the program are to be allocated with 40% for the creation of public art in the public domain through the Arts Council, 20% for small grants awarded by the Arts Council and 40% for the support of established arts groups, including the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, Musical Theatre West, Musica Angelica, International City Theatre, Long Beach Opera, Long Beach Playhouse, Museum of Latin American Art and Able ARTS Work (formerly Arts & Services for Disabled).


“It’s been a few years now that we have not invested in public art, both in conservation and in new commissions. And I think we are looking forward to diversifying what public art means for a city, and I’m definitely excited to be part of that,” Suarez said.


A PowerPoint presentation at the meeting showed that 86% of the 30 largest cities in the country and 41% of California cities have similar programs. The presentation also stated that some states and cities have imposed fees on entertainment venues and events to support the arts. The Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center already has a fee for this purpose, which was raised in November from $1 to $3. This increase will generate $255,000 to be used to support the arts at the center.


Suarez explained that part of the recommendation is for future discussion about what it would mean for the city to have a development fee on private developments, which would be more in line with the trends of similar programs across the country. However, this requires a nexus study, and she said she can’t imagine those discussions would begin for at least two years.


“We’re looking for this to start with fiscal year 2018,” Suarez said. “So the city manager’s office and the arts council will be working together to figure out logistics and regulations, as recommended by the city council.”

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.