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City Releases Mural Legalization Ordinance

Through the proposed ordinance, murals would be allowed on private property for the first time since 2002.

City Releases Mural Legalization Ordinance

The first draft of an ordinance that would once again allow murals to be painted on private proerty in the "Mural Capital of the World" was released to the public on Wednesday morning.

Councilman José Huizar (CD-14) stood alongside artists at Self Help Graphics and Art in Boyle Heights to herald the release of the new ordinance, which provides a distinct set of of regulations for artistic murals.

Since 2002, the city's overarching sign ordinance has lumped together comercial signs and artistic murals--the result of legal pressure from the billboard industry, who argued that previous versions of the ordinance unfairly targeted advertisers.

Tanner Blackman, of the City's Code Studies Department, explained that the city’s previous sign ordinance--which allowed murals but not commercial signs--had invited a lawsuit from the commercial advertising industry, which since 2002 has forced the city of Los Angeles “to be equally unfair to everyone.”

Under the current ordinance, Judy Baca's mural, which is painted on an AT&T owned property at the corner of Avenue 54 and Meridian Street, would be prohibited.

The draft ordinance attempts to clearly define artistic murals and establishes a process through which they can created on private property.

As part of that process, artists and business owners would be required to gather community input and develop a long-term maintenance plan.

The new mural ordinance would also shift the job of mural enforcement out of the criminal courts and create a new administrative oversight process.

The following bullet points from the draft ordinace were provided Huizar's office:

  • Allows creation of murals on private property, and defines as “an original work of visual art that is tiled or painted directly upon or affixed directly to an exterior wall of a building.”
  • Permits and encourages murals on a content-neutral basis—1.) Vintage mural for existing; and 2) Original for new.
  • Creates permit for existing (vintage) murals to become legal upon adoption of ordinance by City Council.
  • Requires a check list application process and a “neighborhood involvement requirement” with specifics to be adopted via guidelines issued by City Planning Department.
  • Establishes administrative process for code enforcement versus the current criminal process.
  • Requires a maintenance plan, including graffiti-resistant coating.
  • Permit fees recover administrative costs (cost-neutral).
  • Public input process for the next 60 days to refine and amend proposed ordinance.

Click here to view a discussion draft of the mural ordinance.

The release of the draft ordinance triggers a 60 day public comment period, during which community members will be able to recommend changes to the document until February 8, 2012.

Dave Russell, an artist from the Mobil Mural Lab, told Blackman at November's meeting that the broad guidelines would need to fully vetted by the mural community before they were set in stone.

“I think each bullet point presents a lot of gray area which really needs to be discussed and have the input of the mural community,” he said.

Staffers from Council District 14, along Blackman, will conduct another meeting at Self Help Graphics and Art at 6 p.m. to explain the new ordinance.

Blackman will also host a workshop and public hearing at City Hall on January 10, 2012.

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