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City error washes art away 

After nine hours of effort the day before, Rudy Raidl found that his contribution to San Luis Obispo’s I Madonnari—an annual sidewalk painting festival that raises funds for children’s art programs—had been ruined overnight by the sprinklers at Mission Plaza. Three other paintings were also damaged, despite organizer requests that the sprinklers be shut down for the weekend.

“I was almost going to cry; then it turned into a kind of anger,” Raidl told New Times. “I didn’t even look at the other drawings. I just had to get out of there.”

Raidl said he didn’t have it in him to put the necessary 12 hours of work into the spoiled image on Sunday, so he left it as it was, with a note explaining the damage to the public. Other artists reworked their images.

John Hendricks, a parks maintenance technician, explained that staff was aware of the need to turn off irrigation, but thought it would be best to leave some sprinklers in service in order to keep landscaping throughout the plaza from turning brown.

“Somehow, one of the valves was missed,” Hendricks said. “We discussed it in our morning meeting and will take a different approach next year.”

Randy Dettmer, one of the lead organizers of I Madonnari, told New Times the sprinkler snafu was only one item in a laundry list of frustrations resulting from dealing with the city this year. He said advertising support from the Promotional Coordinating Committee was down from previous years, public restrooms were filthy, the big banner over Monterey Street went up late, and confusion over road closures caused a lot of last-minute scrambling.

“The topic of discussion has come up whether it makes sense to continue holding the event here,” Dettmer said.

City officials said the Promotional Coordinating Committee is implementing new policies to funnel advertising support to new events while incrementally scaling back support for established festivals like I Madonnari, now in its 21st year in San Luis Obispo. A member of the tree committee, which hangs banners as a side gig, said banner schedules have been erratic ever since the recent resignation of the city’s events specialist; and Shannon Bates, the recreation and public art manager, said organizers first asked for road closures on Sept. 8 and 9 and wanted to add the evening of Sept. 7 for set-up after the fact. The issue was resolved that Friday morning, just in time for set up.

A copy of the event permit application and conditions letter, signed by Bates, lists the event’s dates as Sept. 7 to 9 and says the “dogleg” roads behind the mission will be closed for the event. Bates described the confusion as an “interpretation issue.”

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