Beth Tobey

Storm Drain Mural Pilot Program a Success - Thanks to amazing artists and involved neighbors!

Beth Tobey @ 8/28/2019

In March of this year the Santa Cruz Arts Commission approved three storm drain mural designs for installation in neighborhoods along the San Lorenzo River at Beach Flats Park, the end of Felker Street and the end of Pryce Street. The goal of this program is to raise awareness that these drains flow directly into the San Lorenzo River and to inspire stewardship of the drains and the River through meaningful neighborhood engagement and beautiful artwork.

The Storm Drain Mural Program is a collaboration between the City of Santa Cruz and the Coastal Watershed Council (CWC) and grew out of discussions with the City’s Public Works Department, which determined that many of the storm drains along the San Lorenzo River are magnets for trash and other pollution. The water going into these drains flows directly into the San Lorenzo River and impacts River health and the creatures living in the San Lorenzo River ecosystem.

The City helped fund the murals and Coastal Watershed Council staff conducted outreach in the neighborhoods with the artists. 

Beach  Flats Park:

Irene Juarez O’Connell’s Beach Flats Park design was developed through three neighborhood meetings, including a “Storm Drain Mural Social” held in the Beach Flats Park. All outreach was done in both English and Spanish. 

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The Beach Flats storm drain mural features:

A central figure in the design is “Tlaloc”- a personification of the energy of Water, according to the precolonial Mexica codices found in central Mexico. In this design, Tlaloc is a kind of gatekeeper and protector of the storm drain, with arms drawing the viewer’s eyes to it.

The sea turtle in the middle came directly from the suggestion of some middle school youth and reminds us of the indigenous world view of North America being “Turtle Island.”

Felker Street:

A strong turnout --56 attendees including 15 youth and 41 adults – and plenty of sunshine powered the latest storm drain installation in Santa Cruz on Felker Street.

The design for Daniel Velasquez’s storm drain mural was developed through two neighborhood meetings with outreach done in both English and Spanish.

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The mural leads to the storm drain at the end of the sidewalk and features:

Creatures of the San Lorenzo River – Including steelhead, cranes, ducks and raccoons.

Flowers or the San Lorenzo River.

A beach ball – tying in the recreational link to the beaches and ocean.

“Eddie the Cat” whom the neighbors felt strongly about including!

The design is further inspired by totems throughout indigenous cultures and the neighborhood will be able to help paint in the colors. One of the primary aspects of this mural is the ability for people of all ages and abilities to help with its installation – creating strong connections between neighbors and increased sense of stewardship for the storm drain and San Lorenzo River.

The mural will be coupled with signage attached to fencing near the drain about keeping trash out of the storm drain and stewardship of the San Lorenzo River. 

Pryce Street

The Pryce Street designs were developed  through two meetings with artist Ralph D'Oliveira and neighbors on Pryce Street and all outreach was done in both English and Spanish. There are two storm drains that connect with each other on Pryce Street.

In meetings with the neighbors, several talked about a family of raccoons that had lived in the storm drain for a short time – including one affectionately nick-named “Fatso the Raccoon.” Ralph has delightfully included a faux drain – painted on the curb--with the neighborhood’s favorite raccoon peeking out of it!

Connecting to the second storm drain is a river – including fish – that create shadows in a 3-D effect. 

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More than 25 neighbors helped with the Pryce Street installation - including one of the smallest painters we've seen! (See the photo of the adorable baby!)

We think it's pretty clear that this pilot program was a success - from the high level of participation from the neighbors to the gorgeous and thoughtful designs and the final results!

For more information please contact Arts Program Manager, Beth Tobey, at (831) 420-5154 or