Sea gull sculpture plan doesn’t fly with council

A large, bronze sea gull sculpture donated to the city’s permanent art collection is still looking for a home after the council denied a new plan for the bird.

When the piece was first proposed as part of a new entry sign on southbound Highway 101 more than a year ago, questions were raised about the public involvement process.

This time, the sea gull was proposed atop a bronze C-shaped curve, to mimic a bird flying over a cresting wave, at the entrance of Fletcher Cove Park.

Public comments submitted throughout last summer ranged from highly supportive to extremely negative. Those in between raised questions about the proposed location.

The city’s Public Arts Advisory Commission (PAAC) boiled those concerns down to three issues: that the sculpture not block ocean views, not hang over the sidewalk, and the base design should reflect the natural landscaping and Torrey Pine trees.

These issues were addressed by modifying the base design to mimic a knotted tree trunk and moved farther up the hillside on the north side of the park, so the PAAC recommended approval of the proposed sculpture.

However, the City Council has final approval of all public art proposals, according to the city’s master arts plan.

The council denied the proposal Feb. 25 in a split 2-3 vote, amid concerns the park was not an appropriate location for the piece.

“This could become a signature piece in a place that already has a signature,” Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said.

Councilman Dave Roberts voted against the proposal because he said he could not visualize the piece based on computer simulations, which he felt were not to scale. He requested some sort of physical mock-up, like story-polling a house. He said he might change his vote based on what he sees.

“I am disappointed they did not approve it, but we still have a shot,” said Alan Moffson, PAAC chairman.

Mayor Mike Nichols said that the city might consider returning the piece to the donors if it appears there is no suitable place for it.

Heebner recommended holding onto it and waiting for several major development projects to unfold, to see if there is another location that betters suits the large sculpture.