News

Palo Alto set to approve digital artwork for City Hall lobby

'Conversation' by Susan Narduli aims to encourage public participation

The latest element in Palo Alto's roughly $4.5-million effort to enhance the ground floor at City Hall will be nearly impossible for visitors to 250 Hamilton Ave. to miss or ignore.

Under a proposal that the City Council is set to approve on Monday night, the city will install a digital mural of slowly changing imagery in the building's lobby. Entitled "Conversation," the prominent art project will feature images of Palo Alto residents, public announcements, news clips and interactive opportunities for visitors.

The council is preparing to approve a $174,477 contract with artist Susan Narduli to design, develop and install the new-media artwork. The piece is expected to ultimately cost about $250,000.

The expenditure is an addition to the $4.3 million that the council has already allocated for the renovation of City Hall's lobby, a project that despite its high cost and visibility was approved on the council's consent calendar last summer without any discussion or dissent.

After facing public backlash during the election season about the cost of the project, the council held a discussion last week in which City Manager James Keene and council members made a case for why the renovation is necessary.

Councilman Larry Klein argued on Nov. 17, that the building has been long neglected and has serious upgrade needs. The goal of the project, Klein said, is to make City Hall a "usable building" and prevent it from falling into a state of disrepair that many associate with the Cubberley Community Center.

The project includes, among other things, reconstruction of two small meeting rooms on the ground floor; relocation of the Utilities Department's customer-service representatives to the ground floor; and creation of a new public meeting room adjacent to the lobby, a site that currently houses the Human Resources Department.

"Like any big building you need to spend money on it on a regular basis, and the city hasn't," Klein said.

Keene called the City Hall renovation a "good and necessary project." He noted that the existing Council Conference Room is small, cramped and has an outdated air conditioning system that blows air directly at council members. He called it "absurd" that the council has to meet in a space that not only doesn't work for council members but also doesn't work for members of the public.

The "Conversation" piece, much like the refurbished conference rooms, aims make City Hall more welcoming and interactive. At the same time, the latest addition to the City Hall's renovation belies the notion that this is merely a maintenance project. According to a new staff report, the digital piece is "anticipated to be a destination artwork for visitors and residents alike."

It will allow the city to broadcast meetings, display way-finding information and agendas, show footage of neighborhoods and residents, and offer residents a chance to interact with the city, according to the report.

Keene told the council on Nov. 17 that the idea behind the art work is to make City Hall a "place of coming together." The new report makes the same point.

"By creating and installing an interactive public artwork into the lobby of our City Hall, we are asking the community to treat the space as an extension of community, right at ground level within City Hall," the report states. "This piece will serve to invite citizens of Palo Alto to interact with a significant work of art that can also inform community and government through a diverse, collective voice reflecting the open, engaged and creative government we value."

Like the other components of the City Hall project, the approval of the new digital display is listed on the council's consent calendar, which means it will be automatically approved unless the council decides to pull it from the calendar.

Comments

4 people like this
Posted by Garden Gnome
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 26, 2014 at 9:37 am

Won't this take money away from city employee pensions?


11 people like this
Posted by 37 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 26, 2014 at 10:27 am

Ever walk into the lobby at City Hall? It's usually always empty. Those that go are there for a purpose and want to get in and out. Why on earth spend tax payer money on this? The only ones watching will be the clerks behind the front desk.


10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2014 at 10:43 am

And where's the money to spend on the Baylands Boardwalk and Interpretive Center. Many more people visit the Baylands and enjoy the natural beauty on a regular basis and never go anywhere near City Hall. I have only been in City Hall a couple of times and can't remember noticing the lobby.

Where are the priorities?


14 people like this
Posted by Disbelief squared
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 26, 2014 at 11:26 am

A quarter million dollars for an ill-defined, City Hall ego booster "art" piece is insane. Are the council members SO rich or SO disconnected with reality that they can't find a better use for that money?

And, seriously, air-conditioned air blowing on people at meetings is a crisis? Anyone who actually works for a living would just install different vent covers. $100 and you're done.

$4.5 million to renovate a lobby is grossly arrogant and wildly against the actual needs of Palo Alto residents. Shameful.


14 people like this
Posted by Professorville Resident
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 26, 2014 at 11:28 am

Let's see . . . the City Council has already approved spending $4.3M on a project that started out to be a conference room remodel. Councilman Klein justified the expenditure by stating that the building had been long neglected and had serious upgrade needs. Now the City is proposing to spend an ADDITIONAL $250K for a work of art in the lobby? What's wrong with this picture (pun intended)?

Perhaps this partially lame duck City Council is trying to set a record of some sort for breaking faith with those it was elected to represent!

I can't wait until something that truly benefits the residents comes before the council only to be rejected because it's too expensive (e.g. the proposed Resident Permit Parking program that is currently on the Council agenda for December 1.)


10 people like this
Posted by Sew buttons on their underwear
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2014 at 11:32 am

It sure would be great if we could just kick them all out NOW, and just glide for a couple of months without a city council.

Truth is, we can't afford any more of the damage the lame Dix are causing in their final weeks.


11 people like this
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 26, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Let's keep cutting city services like police, street sweeping and library hours, and invest that money in digital art for the city council. [Portion removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Why wasn't this a campaign issue? Election after election we have people claiming to be out "political betters" banging on about things that they know nothing about--and then issues like whether this $4.5M is a good use of public money are not touched.

This waste of money is another prima facia example of how corrupt the City government has become.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 26, 2014 at 3:22 pm

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Raid on the city treasury
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 26, 2014 at 10:25 pm

$250,000 for computer generated screens with moving pictures. Unbelievable. Everyone can get this kind of distraction on their own devices, computers, phones, etc.
I no longer think the staff is misguided or foolish. It looks more like a raid on the treasury before the new council is installed.
Millions and millions of expenditures have been proposed in the past month. Two million for traffic signals, $1,060,830 million for asphalt (Nov.10), 4.5 million for the first floor renovation.
I'm pretty sure it's not incompetence. It's much more targeted and serious.


2 people like this
Posted by Rational
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 27, 2014 at 8:15 am

1. Wow. Baylands repairs first, please. That was supposed to be ~$50K? Maybe more because there will be a $50K environmental impact review and $100K design.

2. I work for a company that makes giant touch screens for, amongst other things, lobbies. Even if they put 4x 70" touch screens, cost of mountings hardware and label all in, it would $40K. Nice and bright displays (2X bright) made for operating three years. Designing the content and keeping it fresh is where the money would go ... And unless funded for something like $25K per year (shared with the city's web design etc costs) it will get pretty old quickly and people will stop using it. Simple: on a TV, if the picture ain't changing no one is watching. Focus should be on the DISPLAY and ENGAGEMENT.


7 people like this
Posted by Feh
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 27, 2014 at 7:49 pm

How many residents/taxpayers actually go to the first floor of City Hall? How many hours a day is it open? How many days a week? How much on-going maintenance will this "art" require?

Do the math. What a ridiculous wast of money.


4 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 27, 2014 at 10:22 pm

This is ridiculous!!! FIX the BAYLANDS BOARD WALK. REHAB THE DILAPIDATED WOODEN NATURE CENTER. CLEAN UP THE PLACE. People come from all over to see the view from our Baylands. THe City Hall? Not so much!!


7 people like this
Posted by Craig
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 28, 2014 at 12:02 pm

The city is spending huge amounts of money on new signs and obnoxious green and white markings all over the pavement. Hummmm. [Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by K
a resident of University South
on Nov 29, 2014 at 3:40 am

Once upon a time, I had a view of the neighbor's beautiful wildflower garden and lovely historic home across the street outside my humble studio window. Now I have a view of a huge obnoxious neon yellow street sign blaring at me 24/7. This on an alley street mind you! These signs are horrible! Palo Alto was one of the prettiest towns I have ever seen and they ruined it. I don't see any difference in the behavior of traffic, either, btw. Now this,"a digital mural of slowly changing imagery in the building lobby". Is this supposed to be cool? Spectacular? It's just another cold, baleful and confusing rectangle to stare at; it will serve no better function than the directories already in place. A complete waste.


4 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2014 at 9:35 am

Keene and the City Council continue to amaze in new and expensive ways to spend on themselves.


3 people like this
Posted by Feh
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 29, 2014 at 10:11 am

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by piling on
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2014 at 11:11 am

The character, aesthetics, ambiance and quality of life of this unique
and once beautiful city have been under attack by this three headed monster of the Council, staff, and local developers serving their own interests and agendas this past dozen years detached from any other value system. The damage is enormous and the impacts are still unfolding. Thankfully a new Council majority will soon be in place.


3 people like this
Posted by Feh
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 29, 2014 at 5:31 pm

[Portion removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Raid on the city treasury
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 30, 2014 at 10:22 am

We don't know what looking at screens so many hours a day does to our brains. Especially young people's brains which are still developing.
Do we need yet another attention-demanding screen to take over our consciousness? Even when we are out and about attending to our tasks?
Putting up questions (government questions) to "stimulate conversation" is a fraud and a distraction.
Stop the crazy spending. The city is out of control.

I'm pretty sure it's not incompetence. It's targeted and serious.


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 30, 2014 at 11:23 am

Has nobody realized the revenue opportunities here by showing non-stop GEICO commercials?


5 people like this
Posted by iconoclast
a resident of University South
on Nov 30, 2014 at 8:59 pm

"How many residents/taxpayers actually go to the first floor of City Hall?"

This toy is for the city staff in City Hall, not residents/taxpayers. Its bill is for residents/taxpayers.


5 people like this
Posted by Follow the money
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 1, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Who first suggested this idea? Have any contracts been let for the installation of the project? There is something fishy about this. It's such a gratuitous suggestion, given other priorities. Someone should dig deeper on this to see who might be getting "rewarded" (with a contract to install the digital "art") for supporting this or that Council member in the past (or present).


2 people like this
Posted by Too Funny
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2014 at 9:28 pm

This is the 3rd remodel of council chambers and the city lobby that city manager Keene has convinced city council members that they need. The only thing "absurd" is that Keene is still city manager. Guess he knows who to please to keep his job. $4,500,000 to remodel one floor at city hall is what's really absurd. Guess spending city reserves on city services would be inappropiate. Seems Keene has focused more on keeping his senior management friends employed and distracting city council members with nonsense.


1 person likes this
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 2, 2014 at 11:36 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


1 person likes this
Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2014 at 12:53 pm

the big Q is who gets the $4.5 mil commission? Could the journalist please find out?


1 person likes this
Posted by Egos Gratification
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2014 at 12:22 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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