Score sheet from the SFAC meeting on September 16th (lowest score wins)

The San Francisco Arts Commission’s scoring cards show that Michael Arcega won the art commission for the Valencia Streetscape Improvement Project by a half point when one judge gave two of his competitors 2.5 points. Fractions, however, aren’t allowed, according to Susan Pontious, the program director of public arts for the San Francisco Arts Commission. And so the whole contest will be held again.

In the meantime, few are happy…except possibly (and understandably) Brian Goggin, who lost by half a point.

Both Arcega and Goggin rallied supporters on FaceBook, some of whom commented on previous Mission Loc@l coverage on the Streetscape. The comments about Goggin orchestrating a campaign to push the commission into a re-vote, however, could not be confirmed.

“I’m starting to get frustrated about the whole thing,” said Arcega, whose Victorian-domed street post design was initially favored at the September 16th meeting.

“First they said I won, then they told me the initial decision was being revoked and that they wanted to reconsider the top two projects: mine and Brian Goggin’s. But now they’re saying that the whole thing needs to be redone. It’s confusing.”

Arcega’s proposal included six posts with Victorian era crowns.  He imagined the posts as places for community notices. Goggin, the runner-up, had proposed a large boat-like statue made of bicycle parts which references both the Mission District’s history (it was once home to a body of water, Laguna Del Dolores) and its present and future (bikes are popular here and they’re only getting more so).

“I was really surprised they decided to do a recall,” said one committee member who asked to remain anonymous. “I remember seeing that a vote had been done wrong when I was at the meeting, but nobody said anything at the time.”

“I’ve already moved on,” said Misako Inaoka, one of the four artists who vied for the commission. “And it’s strange to be asked to present again. It just doesn’t feel right.”

Inaoka said she doesn’t think the recount is fair, since Arcega had already been told he’d won. “I really don’t like what’s happening,” she said. “And I don’t understand why they’d do it this way.”

The four judges ranked their choices, one to four, and the artists with the lowest score won, but one of the judges ranked both Arcega and Inaoka with two-and-a-half points each.  In the end, Arcega had eight points and Goggin had eight-and-a-half points.

The fourth artist, Ana Teresa Fernandez, earned twelve points and Inaoka earned eleven-and-a-half points.

Pontious from the Arts Commission said there were other problems in addition to the misuse of fractions.

“We’re canceling the decision made at the last committee meeting because it was invalid on many levels,” said Pontious. “It was just too tainted.”

Pontious said the initial meeting was rushed, and that two of the panelists were absent — a commissioner and community representative, Aife Murray.

“We decided to go through with the meeting without those people because we were trying to meet the construction deadline from the Department of Public Works,” said Pontious. “But they’ve been nice enough to extend the deadline so we can do this right.”

Murray will be at the next meeting and so will Arts Commission President PJ Johnston. “We’re always supposed to have a commissioner at these meetings,” said Pontious. “Nobody was available last time, but Johnston is now so it’ll be complete.”

Pontious said she thought about asking the committee member who had used fractions to re-vote, but decided against it.  She even figured out what the results would be if the committee member had rounded up or down so that each proposal received a whole number.

In one scenario, Arcega and Goggin would have tied for first place. In the other scenario, Arcega would have won by one point. “But that’s irrelevant,” said Pontious. “You can’t just go back and ask someone how he meant to vote, because in the end, that’s not how he voted.”

Pontious said the vote went uncontested at the meeting because the woman who was presiding over it, Interim Project Manager, Regina Almaguer, was unfamiliar with the whole-number system.

Pontious noticed the error after the meeting and decided a re-count was in order. “We’ve been really short-staffed lately,” said Pontious. “But the next meeting will be fine because I’ll be presiding over it.”

The San Francisco Arts Commission will hold a public meeting at 25 Van Ness Ave., Suite 70, on Oct. 14 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Public comments will be considered, but the committee will make the final decision.

“We feel really bad for the artists, but nothing like this has ever happened before and there’s no protocol for handling it,” said Pontious. “Our system has always worked, so we’ve decided it’s best to just include everyone involved in the original meeting and do it by the books. It’s more fair this way.”

The artists have tried to stay away from the politics behind the decision, but most of them felt it could have been handled better.

As for Arcega, he called the incident “unfortunate,” but said he would simply focus on his work like always. “I don’t make art because I want to be a politician.”

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Justin Juul is a freelance writer based in San Francisco's Mission District. He covers culture, arts, entertainment, and city living.

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  1. Does the SFAC mean “scenario”? “Scenerio” isn’t a word.

    Since they have it on a much used form, it means no one noticed, or worse, that everyone there believes it IS a word. Wow. illiterate judges confuse everyone, what a surprise.

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  2. Thanks Jonah. I’m trying to fill in all the details and yes, I am friends with Michael on Facebook. I added him less than a week ago because I’ve been writing about him a lot lately. I tried to add Brian the very same day, but he never responded.
    If you have any more information that would help fill out the picture, please let me know. As I said in the story, both used campaigns on FaceBook, which is not unusual.
    The committee vote is a matter of public record, which is what my reporting has focused on.

    Best, Justin.

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  3. Hi Justin I find your journalism un-objective due to the fact that you and Michael are Face Book friends. This brings in to question your own favoritism.

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  4. Hey Katia,
    I’ve said more than once that the comments had nothing to do with the decision to re-vote. Asking your friends to vote for your project seems like a natural thing to do and I mentioned that both Goggin and Arcega did that. So…what are you saying?

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  5. If someone screwed the process was the Art Commission, if they decided to re- vote, it’s probably because they weren’t happy with the winning project. Not Goggin or his friends have the power to convince judges with simple online comments like this one. If someone is campaigning in favor or against certain artists is the journalist who for a journalist does not sound very objective.
    Life sometime gives you a second chance!

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