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San Diego Arts Commission Asks For 5 Percent Funding Boost

The Vermont Street Pedestrian Bridge is public artwork funded by the city's Commission for Arts and Culture.
Commission for Arts and Culture
The Vermont Street Pedestrian Bridge is public artwork funded by the city's Commission for Arts and Culture.

The city of San Diego's Commission on Arts and Culture plans to ask for a 5 percent increase in funding in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, a commissioner said today.

The commission, which provides financial support for 68 arts and culture organizations in San Diego, receives a portion of the city's hotel room tax revenue. Commissioner Robert Gleason told members of the City Council's Economic Development and Strategies Committee that the proposed hike would match the percentage increase in the city's income from that source.

Like other municipal programs, financial backing for the arts has been reduced in recent years because of the struggling economy.


The commission got $7.29 million in funding in the current fiscal year, or 5 percent of hotel room tax income. In 2003, the organization received $10.56 million, or 9.7 percent of room tax revenues.

"We are mindful of the budgetary environment and mindful that other part of the city and other city programs that have been cut and need to be restored in additional to funding for arts and culture,'' Gleason said. "This is a little different -- it comes from a different funding source, and it provides a demonstrable return on investment.''

The commission contends 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.

Gleason also said he wants the council members to consider longer-term funding of the commission. He said they cannot provide support for multi-year programs when given money only on an annual basis.

No action was taken, but the proposals received verbal backing from the committee members.


"I think this is an important investment to make,'' Emerald said. "We've gone too long short-changing arts and culture.''

The City Council plans to take up the commission's budget on May 9.