Photograph by Michael Amsler
By Paula Harris
THE SO-CALLED Door to Hell has some infernal problems. Let's start with the obvious: some person or persons reportedly took a sledgehammer to it this week. "It was a pretty violent act," says Tom Montan, one of the creators of the sculpture, currently located off Bodega Avenue in Sebastopol. "Someone took a huge corner out of it."
Sebastopol Police Officer Joe Soldis says the vandalism occurred Monday night. "There were no witnesses, but this is under investigation," he adds. "Considering the attraction of the door and that it brought people in to see it from as far as Fort Bragg and Mendocino, we're taking this act seriously."
Montan says he doesn't yet know whether the sculpture can be repaired. "It's kind of devastating," he says. At press time no further information was available.
The vandalism comes at a time when the controversial sculpture is having other setbacks. State highway officials have halted this week's plan to move the infamous sculpture to a new location outside Screamin' Mimi's ice cream shop on a traffic island that splits Highways 12 and 116. City of Sebastopol officials recently approved the new location. But Caltrans officials now say the new site would create a sight obstruction for drivers.
"That's no excuse, because the plants on the island are higher than the door would sit," contends Ron Rodgers, one of the sculptors. "This is an example of what happens when you have good intentions and go against a huge bureaucracy."
Caltrans has also restricted the city's encroachment permit for new sculpture installations in Spooner Park. Meanwhile, city officials are attempting to arrive at a solution. City Planning Director Kenyon Webster says he is waiting for further word from Caltrans. "There may be a chance Caltrans could approve the plan to remove and replace sculptures in Spooner Park, but I don't think the plan for the door location will work out." He ticks off a list of several possible alternate sites: outside the Sebastopol library, in the town plaza, on private property, or even outside City Hall. For now, the "Door to Hell" will have to stay put.
From the September 28-October 4, 2000 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.