City peeved over 'Color of Palo Alto' | February 22, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 22, 2013

City peeved over 'Color of Palo Alto'

Artist was paid $75,000 by city for public installation but hasn't completed work

by Eric Van Susteren

The creator of a popular piece of temporary art has come under fire from City of Palo Alto staff for failing to provide a database of images from the project that could help public-safety officials and city planners.

Artist Sam Yates received a total of $75,000 between 2003 and 2006 to create "The Color of Palo Alto," an attempt to find Palo Alto's single, representative "color" by photographing all of the city's land parcels. He then put the photographs together to form a piece of temporary art on the face of City Hall.

Elise DeMarzo, staff liaison for the Public Art Commission, said Hewlett-Packard Company contributed about $40,000 of the funding. The rest came from the commission.

The piece was featured there between 2007 and 2008, but city staff say Yates hasn't yet fulfilled his end of the deal.

Yates was to provide a database of the 120,000 images of 17,860 properties, according to a report by DeMarzo.

The city would use the images in conjunction with its geographic-information system so emergency responders and city planners could have a photograph to accompany each parcel in the system.

Yates presented the database to then-Mayor Larry Klein on Aug. 5, 2008, but took it back immediately after the presentation ceremony to "tweak a few things" and never returned it to the city, the report states.

The commission still owes Yates more than $7,000 for the project, money that DeMarzo recommended the commission withhold until he delivers the database.

City attorney Grant Kolling sent Yates a letter on March 23, 2012, requesting that the database be delivered within 30 days. Yates initially agreed to deliver it by May 1, but had "concerns about the reproduction, cropping and distribution of the images."

DeMarzo said she recently received an email from Yates, who stated he intends to finish the project but did not give a specific timeline for doing so.

The commission was scheduled to discuss but not take action on the project at its meeting Thursday, Feb. 21, after the Weekly's press deadline.

Editorial Assistant Eric Van Susteren can be emailed at


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