Local art gets hella expensive

The Sacramento City Council is poised to eat a $7.5 million loan to the Crocker Art Museum in return for a couple parking lots with an arena-set expiration date on July 23.

The struggling museum has mustered interest payments on a series of bridge loans totaling $15 million. Under an arrangement dreamed up by councilmen Jay Schenirer and Steve Hansen, the Crocker has roughly four years to pay off one of those $5 million loans. As to the remainder, the museum is expected to return $2.5 million into its own endowment fund to ensure future sustainability, Schenirer said on May 7. The rest will be forgiven.

In return, Schenirer added, the city will take control of two parking lots and whatever “relatively small” revenues they bring in until construction of an entertainment and sports arena complex begins.

Eye on Sacramento president Craig Powell expressed concern that the city was undervaluing the parcels it will eventually give to arena developers, saying the city's intent was to “mislead the public as to the true amount of the taxpayer subsidy of the proposed arena.”

The lots are valued at $400,000.

Despite boasting a quarter-million annual visits—51st in the nation—the Crocker plummets to 136th place in endowments, collecting $250,000 a year in a city that has more nonprofits and gives less to them than the national average, said museum director Lial Jones.

In the meantime, the 128-year-old museum, which expanded in October 2010, has an $8.2 million annual budget it's struggling to keep apace with.

Typically anti-subsidy groups like the Sacramento Taxpayers Association and Eye on Sacramento, both of which oppose publicly funding an arena, declined to stake out positions on the issue. Powell called the Crocker “an important civic asset worthy of support.”