CBS News 8 Investigates: Millions spent on airport art at Lindbe - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

CBS News 8 Investigates: Millions spent on airport art at Lindbergh Field

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Government officials are spending millions of dollars on art projects at San Diego International Airport. But who's paying for it?

Take a look around Lindbergh Field and you'll see dozens of high-end art exhibits.

The most expensive one, The Journey, cost more than $2 million.

Another exhibit with a series of 13 bronze windows hanging on pedestrian overpasses cost, on average, $45,000 each per window.

Some travelers like the artwork.

"Money well spent because we enjoy seeing them. I appreciate art," said one passerby at the airport.

If you fly in or out of Lindbergh Field, you helped pay for the airport art; everything from the $650,000 MetroGnomes project at the new Car Rental Center, to the $500,000 giant kelp renderings on the underside of the airport's bridges.

The Reflection Room in Terminal 2 looks more like a new-age chapel, total cost $216,000.

Tail Light Swarm consists of 801 left-side, Hyundai Elantra taillights plastered to the wall at the Car Rental Center. Side Mirror Hive has 2200 chrome side-view mirrors on the wall in the shape of a honeycomb. Both projects combined cost $675,000.

There are 46 artworks within the airport's art collection. Below are five most expensive sorted by budget, as provided by the Airport Authority. Annual maintenance cost are also included.


Major Capital Project



Annual Maintenance

The Journey

Terminal 2

$2.1 million



Autoplast I: Tail Light Swarm and Autoplast II: Side Mirror Hive

Rental Car Center





Rental Car Center



No maintenance expenses to date

Several Windows…

Terminal 2





Terminal 2




"You know what? It's a waste.I don't care how nice it looks, it's a waste," said one rental car customer.

The government agency that approved all this spending on art projects is the San Diego Airport Authority. Decisions on the projects themselves are made by an appointed board.

"We are an independent agency that was created to operate the airport," said spokesperson Rebecca Bloomfield.

"Art has been added to the airport as a way to improve ambiance, the environment and really just improve that passenger experience," Bloomfield said.

The Airport Authority will tell you that none of the art exhibits at Lindbergh Field were paid for with taxpayer money. Instead, the agency says, travelers foot the bill every time they pay for parking, concessions, airline tickets and rental cars.

Businessman Dan Shea disagrees.

"Well, what is it if it's not taxpayer money? It's not private money," he said.

"So they can try to say it's anything other than taxpayer money but that's where it all starts is with the taxpayer," said the San Diego entrepreneur.

Shea became interested in the airport's art budget after he and a group of Bill Walton supporters tried to donate a $200,000 bronze statue of the San Diego basketball star to the Airport Authority.

The airport board said thanks but no thanks.

"I'm still flabbergasted that Bill Walton is not important to San Diego, but 800 Hyundai taillights on a wall is. I don't get what this policy is all about," said Shea.

The Airport Authority's written policy says 2 percent of the airport's construction budget should go to public art.

Currently, the agency is planning a $2.2 billion dollar redevelopment of Terminal 1. So, the art budget for that future project will surely be in the millions.

The Airport Authority was unable to estimate what it will spend on art as part of the future redevelopment of Terminal 1 because the budget is a work in progress, and the construction will be completed in phases.

"Art is in the eye of the beholder, I guess," said one airport traveler. "You all can have it."

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