ENCINITAS — The much talked about Surfing Madonna might get a reprieve from the city while it figures out how to remove the mosaic without doing any harm to the unsanctioned art.
Consultants hired by the city told the council in a report May 11 that they would like to test various removal methods including using heat and chemicals to preserve the art while removing it. Councilwoman Teresa Barth asked for a discussion of the artwork to be placed on a future agenda.
Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan, who wore a “save the mosaic” T-shirt during the meeting, agreed that the council should discuss the Madonna’s future. Mayor James Bond said he too felt it was time for the council to make a decision on the issue. Several individuals and groups have come forward to offer to take the 10-by-10 foot mosaic off the city’s hands.
Beverly Goodman, owner of Coast Highway Traders, said she approached the city the Monday after the piece of art mysteriously appeared. “I told them I would take it,” she said. “It makes sense to put it in the heart of downtown Encinitas where people can see it.” Her popular shop, located at 530 S. Coast Highway 101, is a world bazaar that features Mexican inspired art and merchandise.
“It could go right next to our Lady of Guadalupe window,” Goodman said. Working with Bobby Virk, owner of the neighboring Moonlight Beach 7-Eleven, Goodman said the wall between the two stores would be a perfect fit.
The two Downtown Encinitas Mainstreet Association board members are excited at the prospect of keeping the Surfing Madonna within the public view in a popular location. “I understand why the city is taking it down but I want them to consider handing it over to someone who will put it in a place where people can see it, take pictures with it,” Goodman said.
A secretive crew posing as construction workers installed the colorful mosaic just before Easter. The unknown workers affixed the six-paneled mosaic to a railroad bridge support along Encinitas Boulevard, just west of the Vulcan Avenue intersection.
North County Transit District owns the railroad bridge, but the support area falls within land that the city maintains under a decades-old property management agreement with the transit district according to Planning Director Patrick Murphy.
Council members said Wednesday that they would like the city to do all it can to keep the piece intact. Houlihan, who brought postcards of the city’s newest artistic attraction to the council meeting, was enthusiastic about the public’s response to the art and the positive impression the art has received around the country. “People love it. It’s bringing people here.”
Indeed, people have been making pilgrimages to the place in recent weeks and leaving flowers and trinkets at the base of the mosaic, which depicts Our Lady of Guadalupe on a surfboard riding a wave.
In other action, council directed staff to allow a 60-day public review and comment period of the environmental impact review document for the comprehensive general plan update.
“We don’t want to just dump a document on the community,” Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar said referring to the massive general plan update. She emphasized that the community’s input was invaluable.
“We are looking at ways to track all of the comments we’ve received from the various commissions and the public,” Diane Langager, a principal planner said.
Houlihan brought up view protections. “I can guarantee you that there are a lot of property owners who did not realize there was nothing in there (the general plan update) about that. In fact, the document does not speak to the use of so called landscape “privacy screens” that block ocean views, especially in the Cardiff community.
Mayor Jim Bond cautioned against over planning. He said the difficult part of the general plan update was the implementation process and that the council would have ample opportunity to participate. “Don’t feel we won’t have another bite at the apple, we will,” he said.