A special landmark designation typically reserved for Santa Monica's most historic buildings could be bestowed upon political cartoonist Paul Conrad's .
The decision to nominate the sculpture for a landmark designation was made by the city's Landmark Commission in a 6-0 vote Monday night.
"I was pleased," said resident Jerry Rubin. He has led the charge to preserve the sculpture, named Chain Reaction.
Moving forward, Chairman John Berley said he expects "very detailed research" will be undertaken to determine the impact the sculpture has had on Santa Monica. An initial assessment submitted to the commission was inconclusive on that front, because the sculpture wasn't widely popular when it was first erected, and now, some believe that it isn't the best example of Conrad's work.
Whether a landmark , however, is still up in the air.
The 26-foot tall mushroom cloud outside the has corroded, the extent to which is still being researched, and could be removed from the city's public art collection if the community doesn't raise the money needed to restore it.
Consultants hired by the city of Santa Monica found recently that there are few examples of landmarked public artwork in other major U.S. cities (they looked at four: Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and New York). It "is exceptionally rare, except in the cases of public fountains, monuments and statues," the consultants, ICF International, wrote in a memo to city planners.
Coincidentally, Chicago has landmarked the site of a bronze sculpture named "Nuclear Energy." The location at the University of Chicago is home to the world's first nuclear reactor.
The cities that have landmarked such artwork have funded the costs of conservation and restoration, ICF representatives said. The City Council has said it is unwilling to pay for the costs to repair Conrad's sclupture.
Rubin has made preservation of Chain Reaction part of his election campaign for City Council in November. He said it wouldn't be unprecedented for city commissioners to landmark something other than buildings, citing Palisades Park and the Morton Bay Fig Tree as examples.
"The fact is we’re innnovaters, not imitators in Santa Monica," he said.