A fierce legal battle is gearing up in Oakland, California over a recent ordinance requiring commercial developers to help pay for public art in their privately-funded building projects.
The Building Industry Association of the Bay Area (BIA) filed a lawsuit against the city late last month, calling the Public Arts Requirements Ordinance an unconstitutional imposition of forced speech.
“Commissioning more public art might be a laudable goal, but the responsibility to fund it should rest with city government and taxpayers as a whole, not with builders and the home buyers and renters who will have to pay more,” said Tony Francois, attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation. “Oakland is committing a broad-brush violation of the Constitution by treating builders, as well as home purchasers and renters, as ATMs to fund the City Council’s wish list for public art projects.”
The ordinance at issue was adopted on Dec. 9, 2014 and took effect Feb. 8. The new rules affect commercial projects exceeding $300,000 or residential properties with more than 20 units. Under those new rules, affected companies are required to spend 0.5% to 1% of a project’s budget on public art.
Public art is “important for the vitality of the artist community as the quality of life for all Oakland residents,” the ordinance notes.
The new rules were modeled after a policy in the City of Emeryville. Similar laws have been approved in San Francisco, Walnut Creek, Santa Rosa, and San Jose.
Read more about the lawsuit here.