About the Colony

Atascadero needs rules for public art

I like the mural painted on the wide open two-story wall at Keith Schmidt’s bike shop near the Santa Rosa Road off-ramp from Highway 101. But as soon as I saw it being painted, I knew there would be a problem.

The fact that I like the mural, and like Keith Schmidt (I’ve known him for more than 35 years and taught school with his dad, Ken Schmidt) has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

And that issue has to do with the fact this city needs to get a handle on the whole issue of public art, whether it be advertising or abstract bicycles.

This isn’t the first time art in public places has raised its ugly head.

Most recently was the Veterans Memorial sculpture now in place at a corner of the city’s lakeside park.

A decade or so before that was the issue of a series of tiles now affixed to the retaining wall in front of the Atascadero Police Department. There was a vicious fight over that public art that had friends taking sides against each other. In fact, it was that art, and a subsequent piece near the Pavilion on the Lake, that led to the formation of the city’s policy on public art, which called for the formation of a committee to review such art pieces.

Less than two months ago the City Council tossed out the need for a public arts reviewing committee.

And who can forget the 10-foot-tall Godzilla that was perched in the back of a pickup truck parked on Traffic Way to draw attention to some kind of business there. I don’t even remember what it was. What matters is that, in my opinion, it was ugly and in bad taste, which is part of the problem. Who decides what is good art and what is bad? Does paying a $605 permit fee make anything OK? That’s just a way for the city to avoid having to decide what is good and what isn’t.

Bicycles painted on a building that sells bicycles is advertising.

Tonight the council takes up the issue again and perhaps will address how to deal with art and murals.

Whatever is decided, what is needed most is a set of rules that are actually enforced equally on everyone, regardless of the zone or location. I find it interesting that the city is adamant that we pick up the droppings (which are biodegradable) that our dogs leave along the trail around Atascadero Lake but ignores the non-conforming and illegal sandwich board signs accumulating at the corner of El Camino Real and Entrada Avenue and elsewhere.

Whatever is adopted tonight should be consistent, enforceable and enforced.