San Diego hires firm to create plan for future arts and culture investments

A man wearing a mask adjusts works of art — portraits of well-known musicians cut from vinyl records — hanging on a wall.
Artist Alex Grimmer adjusts some of his hand-cut vinyl record art as ArtWalk @ Liberty Station returned to the Arts District Liberty Station in 2020.
(Nancee E. Lewis / For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Officials want the “creative city” plan to align arts and culture spending with neighborhood priorities.


San Diego has hired a consulting firm to help create a plan that will guide future arts and culture investments in neighborhoods throughout the city.

“This is an exciting time for San Diego, a first-ever opportunity to embark on a transformational initiative for the way we see arts and culture within our planning and investment strategies,” Mayor Todd Gloria said.

The Cultural Planning Group, which has performed similar work for cities across the nation, was selected from multiple firms that responded to a city request for proposals in June.

The firm is tasked with creating a “creative city” plan that aligns the city’s arts and culture spending with neighborhood priorities.

“During the planning process, we will look to all San Diegans to tell us what matters to form the creative city plan to advance San Diego as a vibrant artistic practice, creativity and collaboration environment,” Gloria said.

The 20-month effort will begin this winter, with stakeholder and public engagement launching this coming spring, including public forums and surveys.

Racial, cultural, economic and geographic inclusion will serve as guiding principles for the process, which will focus on workforce development, neighborhood hubs, arts marketing, cultural tourism and regional arts philanthropy.

The plan may also include proposals to have artists help with city challenges including mobility, climate change, gang prevention and the housing crisis.

The effort will be led by Cultural Planning Group partner David Plettner-Saunders. His team will include Webb Management, a national firm with expertise in citywide cultural facilities assessment and planning, as well as Casa Familiar.

“The team at Cultural Planning Group brings national experience and knowledge of San Diego and the larger bi-national region,” said Jonathon Glus, executive director of the Commission for Arts and Culture. “They also get the innovative public engagement expertise we need to shape a forward-thinking cultural plan to guide and strengthen the city’s planning.”

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