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Manhattan Beach Approves $30,000 Shark Mural

Mar 25, 2024 11:57PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Shark mural by artist Eric Snyder. Rendering via city of Manhattan Beach.

A new $30,000 shark mural with a 3-D look will has been approved by the Manhattan Beach City Council, on a divided 3-2 vote.

The mural, to be created by artist Eric Snyder, will appear on the Civic Plaza parking lot wall facing 13th Street.

The funding for the project comes from the city's Public Art Trust Fund (a fund established through a dedicated 1% development fee that does not impact the General Fund).

In discussing the issue last week, City Council members were divided about whether to approve the mural at all, as well as disagreeing about the location. The mural had originally been proposed for the wall on the police/fire complex facing the post office, but the city had deemed that location inappropriate and asked staff to come up with new options. 

Among the options considered on Tuesday night were walls on the city parking structure at 13th Street, and the walls of the new fire station in East Manhattan Beach. 

In the agreed-upon location, at the 13th Street parking structure, the mural (and the shadow painted underneath to give it a 3-D look) may be partially obscured when a large car or truck parks in front of it.

Mayor Joe Franklin and Councilmember David Lesser were the two dissenting votes on the shark mural. 

"I don’t think that every blank space [in the city] has to be covered," said Franklin. "We have so much natural beauty in this city. When people come here, it isn’t because of the murals on the walls; in fact they’re probably a detriment from people wanting to get away from clutter. Good art draws you in. This doesn’t draw you in."

Councilmembers also heard public comment from residents opposed to the mural, especially in the proposed fire station location, with the argument that the shark seemed "out of place."

But Councilmember Steve Napolitano rejected those arguments. "Having things out of place to me is fine sometimes," he said. "I don’t know where we lost our sense of whimsy along the way."

Furthermore, Napolitano objected to a comment that the city was "inundated" with murals. "We've got probably more than 20,000 structures in Manhattan Beach and 15, maybe 20 murals," he said. "I don’t think we’re inundated yet."

Mayor Pro Tem Amy Howorth noted that the area around the Manhattan Beach Pier is now a shark nursery and that sharks are definitely part of Manhattan Beach's culture. "I like this mural a lot," she added.

LA Vs. Hate Mural Off the Books For Now

Meanwhile, the City Council turned down an opportunity to have TaskForce, a marketing agency engaged by LA Vs. Hate, help create a mural in town with the help of students and with a youth education component.

The mural and accompanying projects would have had a budget of $65,000 to $80,000.

Councilmembers expressed skepticism about the mural, noting that it had been designed with the idea of including students, but had not had the full buy-in or commitment to a location from the school district. They instead agreed to refer the project to Supervisor Holly Mitchell's office, with the possibility of placing the mural at the county-owned Bruce's Beach site.

Public Art Trust Fund Must Be Spent Down

Also at Tuesday night's meeting, councilmembers gave a tentative nod to four sculptural pieces that will come back to the council for final approval at a later meeting.

Funding for all of the public art projects comes from the city's Public Art Trust Fund.

That fund currently has a balance of more than $1.6 million, according to city staff. Of that amount, $923,000 in spending is currently allocated and $689,000 is unallocated.

The funds must be spent on a rotating basis. A total of $240,000 from the fund will be expiring and must be spent by the end of 2024.

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