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A plan to develop a new parking structure, park and 500-foot wings sculpture at downtown’s Navy Pier is kicking up a hearty conversation. In more than three dozen comments, readers weigh in on both the aesthetics of the design and the process of choosing such a landmark piece for the waterfront.

A couple of points are popping up frequently. Several suggest the wings sculptures are distracting the public conversation from discussing the parking structure planned for the pier. And many commenters exhort the port to widen the net for more sculptural or architectural proposals.

Here are a cluster of salient comments. Do you agree or disagree with our readers below?

Mary Beebe, director of the UCSD Stuart Collection of public sculptures, weighed in on our Facebook page

Why not Ellsworth Kelly – a truly iconic and significant American artist known around the world, represented in important international museums, who could make something far more elegant and beautiful and noteworthy. These “wings” are silly beyond words.

William Hamilton wants people to chill out.

Many of the world’s great iconic structures were also greeted with similar sneering derision when first proposed. So let’s see how this generous and bold proposal evolves before we completely dismiss it. … Take a deep breath everyone… we have an opportunity here to work with fellow citizens possessing all the key ingredients for outstanding artistic contribution: values, vision, commitment… and cash. How about we see what we can create together before unceremoniously kicking them to the curb…

Paul Girard loves the plan:

FINALLY! Something striking and beautiful for our waterfront. It not only represents our heritage of sailing and naval aviation, but also a V for victory and a peace symbol.

Erik Hanson points out the same artist, Malcolm Leland, designed another prominent sculpture in San Diego:

This city can’t even afford to fix Leland’s prominent work the “Bow Wave” at the Civic Plaza/Occupy San Diego. Go there on one of the rare times the water is flowing, and you can hear the loose bronze sheeting rattle with the moving water. The City can’t afford a few thousand to fix this, but someone wants to spend well into 8 figures for a new one? Who will pay when one of those sheets of titanium goes launching off that 20 years from now?

Local art writer Kevin Freitas proposes a competition:

If [philanthropist Denny Sanford] wants to throw 35 million (dollars) into a project, why not organize an “open-call” for all interested and credible artists to submit? It only seems right and fair, besides, you might end up with an even better iconic something than what Leland is proposing. …

The point is for this to be successful, the public and artists need to place a higher value on the arts and its “spiritual” importance, meaning (and quality) by recognizing it serves a purpose in any community and democracy.

Lew Klein, a commissioner with the city’s Commission for Arts and Culture, echoed the push for a competition:

I believe the answer is in an the form of an International Competition judged by civic minded and art professionals from within San Diego and beyond with the cooperation, of course, of Mr. Sanford.

A symbol of San Diego that people think of as Picasso and Kapur are thought of in Chicago, or the Museum in Bilbao or the Statue of Liberty in New York. A symbol of San Diego that brings accolades from those parts of the world were great art is synonymous with great cities — would that not be great?

Bruce Beyor said:

If not a single tax dollar is used, then I am sort of OK with it. However, having it in front of my condo would really tick me off. Seems there are many more things we could all spend our money on these tuff times.

Dennis Rosche pokes at the lingo used to promise the plan would help make the city “iconic” and “world-class:”

How many things does it take to put San Diego on the map? What does “World Class” mean? I noticed yesterday that the Iconic bridge over the trolley tracks to the World Class Convention Center is now being used in a Jeep ad. Nice of us to spend $26 million so that a car company has a backdrop. … I would like to see some world class streets & sewers before anything else!

Don Wood guesses the wings are a diversion attempt:

The concept seems to have been dreamed up to camouflage an attempt to block bay views with a new two story parking garage covering the entire pier. Notice there have been no renderings produced showing what this would look like from downtown, or what it would look like to someone standing on Harbor Drive looking west. If you could get and publish those renderings it would be useful.

Instead of proposing another idea for what the sculpture should look like, Libby Weber wants the developers to consider appealing to a completely different sense: Hearing.

Rather than compete visually with the Midway, why not shine acoustically instead? Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s Millennium Park is a perfect example of iconic architecture married to state-of-the-art sound. Anybody who’s been to a Summer Pops concert knows that San Diego can do far better than a temporary stage and port-a-potties.

In a letter we published, Bob Nelson, a commissioner for the Unified Port of San Diego, wants everybody to relax and not rush to judgment. The “imaginative and controversial proposal” enthuses Nelson; he complains his “jaded to cynical” friends have “scorned and abused” him for that zeal.

Reader Dianne Parham comments:

If philanthropists want to prove they care for the community more than their egos, then they would give funding for what the City needs instead of something that they think will give them false immortality (when the seas rise, the bunny ears will vanish if an earthquake doesn’t shatter them sooner).

Mark Giffin said the plan’s proposers seem out of touch, elitist and arrogant:

I’d suggest most citizens in San Diego are having “vision fatigue”. The city infrastructure is a mess and the Economy is less than stable. Yet you government “decider” types come up with lofty “visions” of new projects and seem unconcerned and totally detached about fixing what you have.

Susan Fitzpatrick raises several questions: Will the plan encourage more entities to build tall structures on the waterfront? What will the Federal Aviation Administration say, considering the proximity to the airport? Will the sculptures be polished, perhaps inviting the glare issues Los Angeles had last decade with its gleaming concert hall?

Over at the Union-Tribune, sentiment remains about split on a reader poll, with 825 votes for the plan and 873 against it.

U-T blogger Richard Gleaves believes the Midway itself is a work of art and shouldn’t be overshadowed. He questions the level of public accessibility currently at the shop:

Except for the proposed monumental sculpture, the redevelopment plan is excellent and deserves public support. The idea of building a downtown park around and about the U.S.S. Midway is fitting given the history of San Diego and continued presence of the Navy as a key civic element. …

Building a huge monument nearby merely competes with the ship, distracts from it, and ultimately dishonors it.

We’ve also published a few more of your letters about the plan:

• Former city planning commissioner Carolyn Chase: “What I’d like to hear is some understanding of why and what factors make a great monument a destination that pays back to the region and not just the egos of those involved.”

• Point Loma resident Deborah Porter: “So don’t spend any more money on second-rate art. Let’s wait until we do get an idea for something as lovely as the Sydney Opera House.”

• Judy Bethel: “Whatever happens needs time and thought. Businessmen and women want it now…that is not the way really good artwork is created. This current suggestion is interesting, but not The One.”

Here are the details for the “town hall discussions” the museum will hold before returning to the port commissioners on Dec. 13 with a summary of what residents think.

All meetings are in the port’s training room at 3165 Pacific Highway.

• Nov. 29, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

• Dec. 6, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

• Dec. 10, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

You can see more of the project at VeteransParkNavyPier.com.

I’m Kelly Bennett, the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach me directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531.

And follow Behind the Scene on Facebook.

Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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