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Racer's Edge: Public art goes vroom on the sides of the Front Street garage.


Two Percent Art

What do "I'm in Love With My Car," "Let Me Be Your Car" and "Car Crazy Cutie Fun Fun Fun" have in common--besides repeated mention of the C-word?

They're all song titles featured in the porcelain enamel-on-steel panels recently installed at the parking garage at Front Street and Soquel Avenue in Santa Cruz.

Since the installation, Nüz has heard Cruzers--most of whom park in said garage--complain that since automobiles aren't what Surf City is about, why the carcentric panels? It's a complaint that makes their designer, Vicki Scuri, laugh.

"Santa Cruz may pooh-pooh the car culture, but it increasingly relies on cars to get around," says Scuri, who describes herself as an environmental designer who specializes in architectural enhancement. "There's a certain irony when a city that prides itself on being alternative puts a parking garage at its gateway."

Scuri used black-and-white imagery taken from in and around Santa Cruz on the 17 panels, which she says are intended "both as a pause point and a puzzle point." In other words, the panels are supposed to make us think about our relationship to, and romance with, the car culture--not deny it.

Though based in Seattle, Scuri has noticed how Santa Cruz has changed over the years. "We've become very dependent on our cars--and very determined to use them," Scuri says, adding that the panels, which also include images of bikes, trains and feet, plus appropriate song titles--"My White Bicycle," "I Often Dream of Trains," "I Want to Walk With You"--are meant as humorous comments.

And in case you're wondering why an artist from Seattle was chosen to head up an art project in Santa Cruz, Parking Program Manager Matt Farrell explains that "it was important to select someone with experience in this kind of collaborative work."

As it happens, Scuri's panels are the city's very first 2 Percent for Art Project. Says Farrell, "Two percent artworks are based on the original construction costs--in this case $90,000 of the parking garage's $4.5 million total cost, which was financed by city garages, meters and funds."

Scuri dedicates the parking garage panels on Wednesday (Aug. 2) at 4:30pm, before being driven, in a classic car, to the Museum of Art and History to present a slide show about the role of public art. The event takes place on MAH's First Thursday--which means that all of Santa Cruz's "car crazed cuties" drivin' "little deuce coupes" along the "freeway of love" can attend for free.

Up the Creek

The scene was a flashback to the '60s: more than 250 outraged Lompico and Felton residents crowded into a tense, standing-room-only meeting at Zayante Firehouse on July 25 to protest Redwood Empire's plan to log the fragile Lompico Creek headwaters.

Why the protest? Residents fear that once the protective tree canopy is gone, they'll lose their only supply of clean water, which will be threatened by petrochemicals from helicopters (to be brought in because of the steep canyon terrain), as well as siltation and sedimentation--caused by runoffs and landslides during storms. "This'll be mud next year," a resident said.

Kevin Collins of the Lompico Watershed Conservancy said the landslides could lead to destruction of property and people, which would lower property values. Several speakers demanded that Redwood Empire be required to put up a bond, since the company has been cited for dozens of violations while logging at Gamecock Canyon, the Russian River and Mill Creek.

Collins further shook up the audience with a painfully loud 90-decibel recording of a logging helicopter. "This is what you'll hear every business day starting at 7:30am," he warned, referring to a proposed 35-day logging period.

"There's no reason but greed to approve the plan," said Green party member Maria Orr of Brookdale. (Both the Green Party and the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors oppose the plan.)

Lompico resident Tim Tonsing, whose home lies a few hundred feet from the proposed logging zone, remarked that the "CDF is supposed to be the California Department of Forestry. If you approve this plan, you should rename yourselves the Corporate Department of Forestry."

"Who makes the final decision? Get their name!" shouted someone.

Unfazed, CDF officials sat stone-faced, further infuriating residents by cutting off speakers after two minutes, not taking notes and refusing to answer questions. According to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), CDF officials have been directed to speed up the timber harvest approval process by none other than Gov. Gray Davis, who has received substantial contributions from the logging industry.

Meeting attendees reminded officials that they work for the state--and not here-again, gone-again politicians.

"You work for California. This is California, right here," Margo Mateas of Lompico shouted, as another speaker warned, "If you pass this, it's not the end; it's the beginning."

Earth First! activists Blackbird (whose life was threatened during Boulder Creek protests in which other activists were shot at and beaten) and Jess Burge said they would occupy the threatened trees--an announcement greeted by audience cheers and shouts of "blockade."

Collins advised residents to stay in touch at www.lompicocreek.org and write protest letters (citing THP #1-01-170 SCR) by Aug. 7 to the CDF, 135 Ridgway Ave., Santa Rosa 95401. CDF will make the final decision by August 17.

Redwood Empire officials did not return Nüz' calls as of presstime.

Dividing Lane

Even as some environmentalists were singing "Ding-dong, the witch is dead" in the wake of the Santa Cruz City Council's 4-3 vote to kill the Broadway-Brommer bike route, a group of cyclists called the Bicycle Lane Demonstration Project was painting a bike lane on Soquel Avenue--an operation they completed in minutes.

Their point? It doesn't have to take another decade to make a safe east-west passage happen.

Nüz can attest firsthand that Soquel isn't what you'd call a "fun" ride on an iron horse. But the BLDP is arguing that this route is a better bet than the city's latest proposal--a ramp from Frederick Street Park to the Yacht Harbor--which activists say is not safe because it's too steep and contains one hairpin turn. Councilmember Keith Sugar promised bike lanes on Soquel at the July 24 council meeting, but after Broadway-Brommer path fell through, cyclists aren't exactly holding their collective breath.

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From the August 1-8, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

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