Supervisors approve art fee for developments, Barger abstains

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, bottom, voices her reasons for abstaining to vote on an art fee ordinance at Wednesday's Board of Supervisors meeting. Screenshot.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance Wednesday that would require developers of various types of residential, commercial and industrial projects to provide public art in private developments in the amount of 1% of the building valuation or pay 1% of the building valuation toward a public art fund. 

The ordinance passed with four votes and one abstention from Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents north Los Angeles County, including the Santa Clarita Valley. 

“I’m really conflicted on this,” said Barger, noting she supports arts.  

Listing a variety of fees that developers need to entitle a property before pulling permits to build, she said “the bottom line is that we have a lot of fees in place.” 

“I, to date, have not really seen our departments taking that seriously in terms of trying to streamline the process as it relates making it more user-friendly for developers, yet we’re going to ask them to pay more money,” she said. 

Barger said she’s concerned about the impact of an additional fee on development with the possibility of new state requirements to meet regional housing development targets. 

“I just cannot in good conscience support adding another fee on, when I don’t feel we’re doing our part to get our house in order in this county,” she said, acknowledging the benefit of an estimated $2 million per year of arts funding. “It’s not a no. It’s just, for me, I’ve got other issues I want to deal with that relates to the housing component so that you all can collect the fees and we can get people to build.” 

Board chairwoman Hilda Solis said the art fee ordinance will be “an investment in placemaking in our communities and in society.”  

“Putting (artists) at the center of our recovery is fundamental to our countywide long-term resiliency,” said Solis. 

Supervisor Janice Hahn agreed with Barger’s call to better streamline processes for developers, but voted for the ordinance, which she said demonstrates the county’s commitment that all deserve access to fine arts. 

The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce called for the postponement of the ordinance in an email to its membership Tuesday. 

Citing the disruption of supply chains, a global health crisis and a growing homeless population in Los Angeles County, the chamber said “the ordinance will add costs to housing and make production more difficult.” 

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