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South Pasadena to assert itself

The little city that could will spend $125,000 to tell beachgoers just where they're zipping through.

By AMY WIMMER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 5, 2002

SOUTH PASADENA -- What this city lacks in size and population it makes up for in motorists who speed through on their way to the beach.

So South Pasadena has commissioned a 14-by-20-foot mural that will let travelers know where they are.

"Let's face it -- it's a (thoroughfare) to the beaches," Mayor Fred Held said of the city's main strip, Pasadena Avenue. "You come in through our city, and it's only, what, three-quarters of a mile long? And you're through it before you even know it. You think you're in St. Petersburg."

The city plans to install the mosaic tile mural by the end of September in the grassy median in the middle of Pasadena Avenue, between Pasadena Palms Hospital and a Bayfront Convenient Care Clinic. The mural will be two-sided so it can be seen by northbound and southbound travelers.

The location proved to be the most controversial aspect surrounding the mural, which is expected to cost $75,000. Removing trees, planting vegetation, constructing a base for the mural and other costs will bring the total to about $125,000.

Joan Runyon, a city commissioner who supported the purchase during discussions last year but voted against it last week, said she changed her mind when the city decided to move the sign. The mural was going to go in front of Mason's Cleaners, between the spans of the Corey Causeway on the edge of South Pasadena.

Then the artist, Harri Aalto of Creative Edge Master Shop in Iowa, said he would prefer to see the mural closer to the city's center.

"It's not an entryway," Runyon said. "It's just a piece of artwork, I say that loosely, which will be put in the center of this island."

Held, meanwhile, was struck by "the beauty of it, picture-wise, and the fact that it was maintenance free."

The mural was unpopular among the residents who will live closest to it. Residents who live along Shore Drive complained that the mural will be another billboard they have to live with. A commercial billboard towers above their neighborhood.

Runyon also is unimpressed.

"When you're sitting in three lanes of traffic," she said, "you won't see it."

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