Multiple appeals have been filed in a rebuke of the Petaluma Public Art Committee’s recent decision to approve the final concept for “A Fine Balance,” the controversial art installation for the Water Street promenade that has faced significant opposition over the past year.
As of Wednesday, the City Clerk’s Office had received an appeal from Petaluma residents Michael Shockro and his wife, Deborah Tavis Shrockro, and a second from Patty Paula. Today is the deadline for filing an appeal, which means more could be submitted before the end of the city’s workweek.
The appellants could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
The city council, which has discussed the $150,000 contract with San Francisco artist Brian Goggin twice, will now have to step in and make a decision on how to proceed. Planning Manager Heather Hines said the city has instructed Goggin to stop working until further notice.
“The council has lots of latitude under the appeal,” she said. “They could modify it, they could eliminate the contract, they could provide feedback to explore other sites — they have a lot of latitude.”
There’s no deadline for when the council has to discuss an appeal, only that it must be scheduled in a “timely manner,” Hines said.
The appeal of the PPAC decision marks the second in Petaluma over the last year. The planning commission’s narrow approval of the contentious Safeway gas station project in June drew the city’s first appeal in three years.
Goggin’s proposal for Petaluma’s first piece of commissioned art features five replicas of Victorian ball-and-claw bathtubs, held up by iron-like stilts. The city’s public art pursuits are funded by a fee charged to developers that elect not to install art on their project site.
So far, Goggin has used about $20,000 of the commission, he said.
In the letter from the Shockros, they referenced two individual memos to the city in advance of the PPAC’s meeting on Feb. 28, when a 4-2 vote was cast to approve the final concept and trigger the construction phase of the project.
Michael Shockro described the bathtubs as “an eyesore,” and called on city officials to halt an installation “that a vast majority of our neighbors find, simply said, inappropriate.”
In the couple’s appeal letter, due to its site within the historic district, they claimed the project requires additional public hearings and approvals from the Historic and Cultural Preservation Committee, the planning commission and city council.
Additionally, they believe it does not comply with several of the city’s guiding documents, and that the PPAC did not “carefully consider alternative locations for the project.”
Paula reiterated comments she made during the February hearing, writing that the “river is the art,” and that a more appropriate location should be considered if the city still wants to pursue the project.
When discussing the contract last summer, the city council added a clause that only allows a relocation after the sculptures have been installed. Moving at this stage of the process, which many residents have been calling for, raises new questions, Hines said.
The contract with Goggin is for a site-specific project that began searching for artists in 2014. He was selected in 2017 after the committee’s first search for a Water Street installation had resulted in several unexciting proposals.