The public will soon be able to make ìtribute contributionsî for as little as $25 to memorialize a loved one, a pet, or even just to honor a friendís birthday, as a result of revisions to Santa Monicaís Park Commemoration and Tribute Policy unanimously approved by City Council.

ìThe purpose of the program is to provide opportunities for tributes to raise revenues to improve public recreation spaces,î said the cityís open space manager Elaine Polachek.

The recommended changes to the Park Commemoration and Tribute Policy were developed in response to a City Council request to staff in 2004 to ìpropose parameters that would provide the public with opportunities to purchase tribute plaques, provided that they were offered in limited numbers and installed in very specific areas of the cityís parks and open spaces,î Polachek said.

Under the new revisions, contributions can be made starting at a minimum of $25 ó which will provide the donor with a special tribute certificate ó up to an unlimited amount.

Contributions will be pooled and, depending on current needs, staff will determine how funds are used, Polachek said.

Donors can also pay the entire cost of acquiring and installing needed amenities.

ìDonors who contribute the total cost of a significant amenity valued over $750 would be acknowledged with a plaque,î Polachek said.

Tribute contributions can go toward park benches, waterfalls, trees, picnic tables, bleachers and other amenities for the city.

There are three categories for tribute contributions:

ó general open space improvements;

ó specific park, beach and other open space amenities; and

ó community forest/trees.

ìI think a lot of the public is really looking forward to this,î said mayor pro tem Herb Katz.

ìI think itís a wonderful thing to do,î said Councilman Bob Holbrook, who called it a ìreal bargainî compared to costs for similar tributes at his alma mater, USC. ìItís a nice, nice thing to do to memorialize someone you care about in your family, or a friend.î

In addition to memorializing loved ones and pets, tributes can also be for special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, said Polachek.

Plaques will only be allowed in designated areas ìso that parks wonít be turned into memorial parks essentially,î said Polachek.

And the content of plaques will be set to a limited menu of simple tributes such as ìin honor ofÖî or ìin memory ofÖ,î Polachek said.

Councilman Kevin McKeown asked, ìIf I wanted to buy a plaque on a bench saying ëIn memory of the 3,223 service people killed in Iraq,í would that be an allowable message?î

Polachek said she believed so, but deferred the question to a city attorney who said it would most likely be allowed.

Holbrook said he wondered if donations would be tax-deductible, and the city attorney said that, while he wasnít a tax expert, he believed they would be.

It is important for donors to understand that materials and amenities acquired through the tribute program become property of the city, which has the right to remove, relocate and replace them at any time, Polachek said.

Mayor Richard Bloom said he wanted staff to evaluate the program over ìthe course of an appropriate period of time, perhaps one or two years.î

ìI want to make sure that folks who have an interest in dedicating benches or trees have their needs accommodated,î Bloom said. ìI think thereís a lot of flexibility in whatís being proposed.î

As a result, staff was directed to return in one to two years with an ìInformation Itemî on the effectiveness of the program.