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Plopped!: Permit-free Public Art at 170 Off Third

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[Mash-up featuring 170 Off Third artist Alexi Kazantsev; rendering and construction porn pin-up courtesy the 170 Off Third website]

Public art has made a strong show recently on the condo scene (Remember last week's first announcement of the bundle of joy?) 170 Off Third, has touted its use of public art commissions as a prominent selling point in its marketing efforts. Imagine our (feigned) surprise then when an anonymous city employee dropped a line yesterday to inform us that builders are affixing artwork to the building without city permits. Structural damage? Who knows. One thing is for certain though: complaints about safety and the, uh, look of the facade have already been lodged with the city. Our scientific study, conducted within the last hour via a call to the city's Department of Building Inspection, along with a visit to its online permit and claim tracking website confirms the tip. 170 Off Third: guilty as charged. A city inspector was dispatched on Friday, and the developer has only days to submit a full set of structural plans in order to proceed. Now before everyone flies off the handle and begins accusing us of launching a smear campaign against the building (developer, marketing company) hear us out.

Public art— the commissioning, making, selling, and installing of it— is and always has been a complicated process involving the confluence of many parties. Prime opportunity for communication breakdowns, no doubt. Bureaucracy out the wazoo! People (including us, most of the time) love to hate public art. (See perhaps the most famous case of such municipal controversy, artist Richard Serra's 1981 "Tilted Arc," a steel monolith that raised so much hell in NYC that it ultimately incurred the midnight wrath of city-appointed workers, a couple of blowtorches, and a trip to the scrap yard.)

Wishing that, say, Claes Oldenburg's "Cupid's Span" (yes, the damn bow and arrow planted in the Embarcadero) would simply self-combust is a question of personal taste. However, remaining concerned about the physical condition and value of one's property and keeping oneself informed therein— even if only by reading gossipy, smart-assed blogs like ours— is an exercise in good, old fashioned pragmatism. And you know we like to keep it prudent around Curbed SF headquarters. Safety first, kids.

One final thought: We found it curious— and rather disturbing, actually, when an anonymous commenter on last week's post on the subject ranted:

AWFUL! I am at a loss for words and I bought a unit there. Had I known (disclosure) that this thing would have been hanging from the building I would have never bought there! This is one persons taste that is now spread over 200 units and I cant be the only one that hates it. I guess it could be worst and you could be under it during an earthquake with 10,000 pounds coming right at you. The developer needs to get rid of this!Buyers at 170 Off Third: Can we get another witness? · San Francisco Department of Building Inspection [complaint against 170 Off Third]
· Art: Plopped! 177 Townsend Receives Special Delivery [Curbed SF]