City Yards Public Art

Our City Yards

The Our City Yards project was inspired by the success of artist Deborah Aschheim's self-directed embedded residency with the Santa Monica Fire Department that resulted in the installation of Back Story in 2021. Made possible by Percent for Art funds generated by the modernization project at City Yards, Our City Yards was conceived as a celebration of the repair and upkeep, fleet and street, fire safety, and waste and resource management work at City Yards, exploring themes of ecological sustainability and justice, the cycle of municipal maintenance activity and its connections to the community, and the labor of essential workers at this site.

The Artists

Two artists were chosen for this work: Debra Scacco was selected to execute a two-year residency project, "Laboratory for the Future," embedded with the Resource Recovery and Recycling and Water Divisions of Public Works, and Tanya Aguiñiga was selected for "Poetic Sounds of Labor," a one-year multifaceted project that includes the commission of a permanent ceramic mural for the new Operations Building.

The Site

The City Yards campus is a 14.7-acre site located at 2500 Michigan Avenue. In 2019, the City embarked on a long-term renovation project, with the first phase completed in 2023. This added three new buildings: an Operations Center with a public lobby, a Fire Training facility, and a Fleet Maintenance building. The following divisions and services of the Public Works Department are based at City Yards: Fleet and Street Services; Facilities Maintenance, including Carpentry, Electrical, Graffiti Removal, HVAC, and Plumbing; Resource Recovery & Recyclingand Water Resources. Other services at the site include the Fire Department’s training program and the Clerk’s Office printing division.


The City of Santa Monica is internationally recognized for its commitment to sustainability, and its current priorities include water self-sufficiency, zero waste, and carbon neutrality. The Water Division's goals for Santa Monica are aided by the communication of the importance and unique path of water systems in this City. The Resource Recovery and Recycling division is in the midst of a drive to promote the practice of organics recycling throughout the City, a program that has been given greater urgency by the passing of Senate Bill 1383 requiring all Californians and California businesses to recycle their food waste, green waste, and food soiled papers (collectively known as “organics”) and establishing methane reduction targets for California. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City has relied on an essential workforce to keep the City moving, and acknowledgement and celebration of the enormous amount of invisible work and overlooked systems of care that make this possible, is an important theme of this project. 

Events and Resources

Public events on themes of water systems and waste/resource management will punctuate Debra Scacco's residency, and will be posted here as they are confirmed. 

Tour: SWIP

3/27/24, 2:30-3:30pm
Water Division Manager Sunny Wang leads a tour of the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Project (SWIP) with Debra Scacco. Videos to check out: Water recycling in Santa Monica: SWIP grand opening and SMURRF tour.

Talk: Ways of Water
5/1/24, 6-7:30pm at the Main Library
Debra Scacco moderates a talk with Kuruvungna Springs Foundation president Bob Ramirez and Santa Monica's Water Division manager Sunny Wang, on Indigenous water knowledge and water strategies that the city is pursuing for greater sustainability. Followed by a Q&A.

Exhibit: Portraits and Clay
5/2/24 at the City Yards Operations Building Lobby

Picnic: We Are Essential
5/19/24, 11am - 2pm at Gandara Park