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New Ordinance Seeks to Re-Define, Broadly Allow, New Art Murals

1932, by David Alfaro Siqueiros, Image via ##http://www.olvera-street.com/html/siqueiros_mural.html##Olvera Sreet##

Yesterday, KCET announced a new draft ordinane that would finally clarify the legal status of murals painted on private property.  In an odd twist, the capital of the street art movement classifies murals as "outdoor advertising" and bans them in all but the most special cases.  This leads to odd stories such as the poor Valley Village homeowner who was fined by the city for encouraging students to decorate the fence in front of her house as violating advertising codes or other building owners being fined for allowing vandals to graffiti their property.

The new ordinance would allow "original art murals" through a time/place/manner permit on private property.  For existing murals, a "vintage art murals" permitting system would allow for their preservation.   The full text of the draft ordinance is available here.

But where the real controversy is going to come is defining what is, or isn't, a mural.  Even among Streetsblog readers, who tend to have a more liberal view for what should and shouldn't be allowed, a quarter of respondents believed that the painted fence in Valley Village was more blight than benefit.

The ordinance defines murals as "public access to original works of art" and "community participation in the creation of original works of art."  In other words, to qualify the painting (not vinyl or other special effect) must be asthetically pleasing, non-commercial, and a benefit to the community.  Polar bears drinking Coca-Cola?  Not a mural.  This?  A mural.

If the ordinance becomes law, property owners will be able to commission work on their walls or lead painting efforts themselves after obtaining a permit.  The ordinance allows for larger pieces of work that cover entire walls or smaller projects.

The draft ordinance is backed by Councilman Jose Huizar, L.A. City Councilman for Boyle Heights and other parts of East L.A. and the Downtown.  Many of L.A.'s more famous mural are in his districts including, as KCET notes, America Tropical painted by David Alfaro Siqueiros at Olvera Street.

Yesterday's release begins a 60-day public comment period on the ordinance. A workshop and public hearing will be held at City Hall on January 10, 2012; written comments will be accepted until February 8, 2012.  After the comment period, the city will take the feedback, revise the draft, and report to the Cultural Affairs and City Planning commissions, tentatively scheduled for March 2012.

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