To call utility boxes ugly is to assign them more character than they deserve. They are simply dull, drab and a bit depressing to look at.

But getting rid of the utility boxes isn’t really the answer. Undergrounding them makes sense, but costs money. And what do we do with the existing boxes in the meantime?

Several cities have opted to paint their utility boxes. I don’t mean that cities just slap a goat of red, blue or pink over a gray slab, but that cities actually recruit artists (paid or volunteer) to paint works of art on the boxes.

According to the blog Not Fade Away, the Oceanside, Calif., Arts Commission used volunteer artists to turn utility boxes into outdoor paintings. Other cities charge a development fee. Given Seal Beach’s deeply entrenched anti-development activists, I don’t think funding a utility box beautification program with developer fees would accomplish anything.

Compare the Seal Beach utility box that appears in the photo at the top of this blog with the following utility boxes that may be found in a city over the border in Los Angeles County.

 

 

The nature of the utility box artwork varies from place to place. I’m partial to the idea of painting art that reflects the area immediately surrounding or adjacent to individual utility boxes. However, other Seal Beach residents might have other ideas.

This is far from being the most important issue in town, but it seems to me it is an idea worth considering. Seal Beach doesn’t have to sacrifice utility—but our town could do well without drab and ugly things. Ugliness drives tourists away and tourists are important to our economy—especially during the off season.

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