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“Chain Reaction” Becomes Santa Monica’s Newest Landmark  


By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

July 11, 2012 -- Paul Conrad’s “Chain Reaction” became Santa Monica’s newest landmark Monday night, but the fate of the 20-year-old sculpture remains up in the air.

The Landmarks Commission’s unanimous decision to designate the sculpture a local landmark does not guarantee that the 26-foot-tall sculpture -- which City staff says may pose a threat to public safety -- will remain a mainstay of the Civic Center.

“I think the City is really committed to seeing how far they can go” to save the sculpture, said Landmarks Commissioner Barbara Kaplan.

It’s still possible for the City to appeal the commission’s decision to the council, but Kaplan doesn’t believe that’s likely. She notes that since the sculpture could pose a threat to public  safety, the City can apply for a certificate of appropriateness to remove it.

In the event that the City determines the sculpture actually poses a safety risk, there wouldn’t be much the commission could do to stop its removal, Kaplan said.

The City estimates it could cost anywhere between $227,372 and $423,172 to repair the sculpture.

The Conrad family has spearheaded a fund raising effort but so far has only managed to raise about $2,500.

Questions of money are not within the Commission’s purview, said Kaplan. The Commission should only look at whether or not the sculpture fits the landmark criteria.

According to a report conducted by ICF International, Conrad’s sculpture meets five of the six necessary criteria to be designated a local landmark.

One criterion that jumped out to Kaplan was that a candidate for landmark designation should be “identified with historic personages or with important events in local, state or national history,” according to City code.

The sculpture is the largest example of Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist Paul Conrad's artwork, said Kaplan.

The more she learned about Conrad’s other sculptures, the more she believed that this one should also be preserved.

For Commissioner Roger Genser, the location of the sculpture, one of the six criteria, is also important.

The strong anti-nuclear statement of the mushroom cloud-shaped sculpture was made more significant by its proximity to RAND and City Hall, Genser said.

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