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Proposal To Double City Funding For Arts Moves Toward City Council

A proposal to more than double city funding for local arts and culture organizations over the next five years was unanimously approved today by the San Diego City Council's Economic Development and Strategies Committee.

Public art along San Diego's waterfront.
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Above: Public art along San Diego's waterfront.

If approved by the full City Council at a future meeting, the amount given to the city's Commission on Arts and Culture would increase by 129 percent to $17.9 million, according to the city's Independent Budget Analyst.

The commission supported 68 arts and culture organizations in 2011, according to a recent report.

The commission receives a portion of hotel room tax revenues in which the council has discretion. The agency gets about half of what it took in a decade ago because of the city's budget woes.

Arts advocates are pushing for a formula that would give the commission 1 percent of a special room tax fund. Their campaign is called "Penny for the Arts.''

Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said people did not look at arts funding as an investment in the past.

"It was looked at as an extra, that we have to cut here, cut here,'' Zapf said. "This is actually a big revenue generator for the city, so when you're cutting arts and culture programming, you're killing the golden goose that provides money for our neighborhood services, for our public safety.''

The commission reported that the arts attracted two million visitors and $170 million of spending to San Diego in fiscal year 2011, employing around 6,000 people. Its statistics also showed that the out-of-town guests who come for arts events stay an average of two days longer and part with twice as much cash as the average tourist.

The office of Mayor Jerry Sanders is supportive of the proposal, but there would have to be some tradeoffs with other spending priorities, said mayor's representative David Graham.

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