Beth Tobey

Storm Drain Murals Start Flowing Along the San Lorenzo River!

Beth Tobey @ 5/9/2019

The Santa Cruz Arts Commission recently 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 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 had 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.

Beach Flats Park – Irene Juarez O’Connell

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.

Irene Juarez Oconnell Storm Drain Design

The Beach Flats storm drain mural features:

  • Animals and plants found in the San Lorenzo River and Monterey Bay – including the red legged frog, steelhead salmon, great blue heron, mallard duck and tule reeds.
  • 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 dark purple lines that create an X across the images align with the already existing cracks in the sidewalk. These will be painted subtly, as a reference to the four cardinal directions
  • 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 – Daniel Velasquez

Daniel Velasquez’s design for Felker Street design was developed through two neighborhood meetings with outreach done in both English and Spanish. The mural will be on the sidewalk leading to the storm drain.

Daniel Velasquez Storm Drain Design

The Felker Street storm drain mural features the following:

  • 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.

In addition to the mural, Daniel wrote a poem that will be placed on a plaque on the fencing next to the storm drain. It is sure to make you smile!

          There once was a boy from Felker St.
          He liked to clean and keep his world neat.
          But near his abode--towards the end of the road--was where he met his defeat.
          He saw
trash that flowed no one knowed where it goed!
          Trash was free flowing who knows where it’s going?
          The boy didn’t but he wanted it to stop!
          He ran to his home and brought back poem which he left for the world to see.
          Now you and me can walk down Felker St and there’s no trash that flows to the sea.

Pryce Street – Ralph D’Oliveria

The Pryce Street designs were developed  through two meetings with 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 and feature the following:

  • 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!
Fatso The Racoon Cropped

Connecting to the second storm drain is a river – including fish – that create shadows in a 3-D effect. Let the photo load - it's LARGE!

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Storm Drain Murals Pilot Program Background:

The Coastal Watershed Council (CWC) is a local non-profit that works to protect the San Lorenzo River and the broader watershed in Santa Cruz County.  CWC has partnered with the City on many successful projects including the Ebb and Flow River Arts Festival. CWC has done extensive outreach in Ocean’s 11 and Beach Flats neighborhoods over the last two years. Residents of these neighborhoods have shared desires for more public art, less water pollution, interpretive signage, more points of interest and more neighborhood gatherings, all of which are addressed in some way through this project.

Conceived as a pilot project, the City Arts budget has funding available for future storm drain murals if this pilot is successful.

For more information please contact Arts Program Manager, Beth Tobey, at (831) 420-5154 or or Community and Science Manager, Alev Bilinsoy, with the Coastal Watershed Council at (831) 464-9200 x 104 or