Learn about the George Washington Bust

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In 1999, the City Council adopted a resolution approving the acceptance of a monetary gift of approximately $100,000 from the Estate of Lloyd F. Alaga, for the purpose of placing a bust of George Washington in the City Plaza and using any excess funds to refurbish the historic fountain, also in the City Plaza.

Upon receiving the funds from the Alaga Estate, the City released a Request for Qualifications for the design and creation of a bust of George Washington. A selection committee chose Michelle Armitage of Armitage Designs in Santa Cruz as the finalist. The City entered into an agreement with Ms. Armitage in the amount off $70,000 to create, as stated in her proposal, “a slightly larger than life size (32-36 inches high) bust of George Washington, rendered in bronze, and mounted on a rectangular pedestal (approx.. 54 inch high), of concrete and granite; extracted from the ‘Granite Rock Quarry’ at Aromas.” The bust was “cast using a technique called ‘Lost Wax,’ a process that dates back for centuries. The original sculpture is molded in clay. A mold is taken from the clay sculpture to cast a wax edition. Through the ‘lost wax” process, the ‘wax’ (becomes) the finished bronze sculpture.”

The project was completed in early 2001 and an unveiling ceremony was held on February 19, 2001, featuring the artist and members of the Alaga family. 

Current Community Discussion

In July 2020, City staff were made aware of two community led, online petitions that had been signed by many people. 

The first petition was created on the website change.org and called for the removal of the “George Washington Statue from Watsonville Plaza.” The petition states: " Washington owned 100s of Slaves during his lifetime. He also aided in the genocide of the Indigenous people of this land. He is the epitome of White Supremacy! If we are going to display representations of men like Washington in a public space, we should then include features that reflect their dark, inhumane and genocidal qualities as well! We urge the community to sign this petition to take down this blatant display of racism and white supremacy standing so boldly in Downtown Watsonville. If monuments are meant to be permanent tributes to individuals and what they stand for, this idea is laden with many flaws and this bust does not reflect the values of our community and it MUST be removed."

The second petition was created on gopetition.com and was titled “Save Watsonville George Washington Statue.” The petition states: "The Watsonville Parks and Recreation Commission will be meeting to consider the removal of the George Washington statue from the city plaza. In addition to serving as our country’s first president, George Washington was the man who established the American republic and successfully led the revolutionary army against the British Empire. Washington was a farmer, a businessman, and supported and promoted commerce. After serving as president, he returned to farming. In 1999, the Watsonville City Council voted unanimously to accept a $100, 000 gift from the Estate of Lloyd F. Alaga for the George Washington Bust and to fix the beautiful water fountain at the Plaza. Mr. Lloyd Alaga, was a Watsonville native of Croatian descent. He also donated $200,000 to the Watsonville Library. The bust is located in the Watsonville Plaza and is the work of local artist Michelle Armitage http://www.michellearmitage.com/largerworks.html The statue was dedicated in February of 2001. The plaza is a historical landmark, formed in the late 1800s and is on the National Register of Historical Places…We, the undersigned citizens of Watsonville and the Pajaro Valley call upon the Watsonville Parks and Recreation Commission and City Council to not remove nor relocate the George Washington monument from the City Plaza."

Revolunas hosted a sit in on July 17 in front of the George Washington bust that was attended by community members both in support of and against its removal. Another group has organized a sit in to save the bust on July 31. The City Council, City Manager, City Clerk and Parks and Community Services Director have received many emails regarding this matter (see attached). This matter has also been reported on by the Register Pajaronian, KION and other media outlets. 

Public Process

During its meeting on August 3, 2020, the Parks and Recreation Commission held a study session concerning the George Washington bust in the City Plaza that was attended by over 140 people. During this study session, staff presented a report providing background information on the bust. Commissioners and members of the public then had the opportunity to ask questions and voice their opinions. Staff  also received many emails, letters and phone calls from individuals expressing their thoughts on this matter.

Following this meeting, staff solicited input from the groups that authored the two larger surveys regarding next steps. Staff then developed a survey to solicit broader community input, which was open from September 1-30, 2020. A Town Hall meeting was held on October 20 to discuss the results of the survey and discuss possible paths forward. 

During its meeting on November 2 at 6:30p, the Parks and Recreation Commission will consider the various paths forward that have been proposed by the community and vote a the course of action. 

Please see below for links to the various documents associated with this topic.

Parks and Recreation Commission Meeting - August 3, 2020Staff Report
Power Point Presentation
Meeting Video
Town Hall Meeting - October 20, 2020Power Point Presentation
Raw Survey Data - Numerical  Text
Meeting Video
Parks and Recreation Commission Meeting - November 2, 2020Meeting Agenda and Link (Available 10/29)