MAIN STREET— City Hall wants to repair the weakest links on “Chain Reaction” and add a barrier to protect the public.
The future of the sculpture will at last be determined at next week’s City Council meeting.
The sculpture, designed by Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Paul Conrad, was installed in 1991 as a gift to the city.
It needs repair, city officials say, but how much that will cost is a topic for debate. Estimated costs range from $85,000 to $550,000. Building Officer Ron Takiguchi’s most recent high-end estimate is $425,000.
At Tuesday’s meeting, council will consider spending $75,000 to run tests on what repairs might be needed.
Earlier this year, after it was made public that City Hall would recommend that it pick up the tab for repairing the sculpture, the Daily Press reached out to councilmembers to see where they stood. At least four of the members were in favor of, or leaning toward favoring, the plan to save the sculpture.
In 2012, council voted to remove the sculpture but gave advocates time to raise the funds needed for repair. Last year, they voted to extend the fundraising period and agreed to match up to $50,000 worth of funds raised.
Advocates have raised $101,290 to date. Critics say the council should stick to its original decision and let supporters foot the entire bill.
“This amount, along with the numerous community events and extensive associated media attention, demonstrate broad support for the work at the local and regional level,” stated a report prepared by Cultural Affairs Manager Jessica Cusick.
Santa Monica officials are also recommending that a barrier be placed around the sculpture to protect the public in case it collapses. The barrier should be placed at least 13 feet from the base — half the distance of the height of the 26-foot-tall sculpture.
Once the tests are finished, city officials will again go before council seeking funding for repairs and the barrier.
“If (City Hall) were to invest between $200,000 and $400,000 to restore ‘Chain Reaction,’ the level of restoration must address public safety and assure longevity,” Cusick’s report stated. “The work must be stable for at least the next 20 years.”
Restoration could be tricky, officials said, because the public art has been given landmark status. Any alteration or restoration will require certification by the Landmarks Commission or council. Any work will also have to meet the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
Last year, the Daily Press requested all e-mails sent to and from Takiguchi regarding the sculpture but some were withheld by City Hall. City officials said they were exempt from disclosing material reflecting the deliberative or policy making process. An attorney at the California Newspaper Publishers Association said that the reasoning for the redaction was unsound.