Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles

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Beverly Press


L.A.’s gray days may be over

By Aaron Blevins, 9/05/2013

Council approves mural ordinance, details to be finalized


With the Los Angeles City Council’s approval of the mural ordinance last week, the city may again explode in color after a decade-long hiatus, though officials are still working out details.

Murals, such as this one on La Brea Avenue near San Vicente Boulevard, are expected to thrive once again in Los Angeles after the ban is removed. (photo by Aaron Blevins)

The council approved the ordinance by a vote of 13-2 on Aug. 28, prompting many art advocates to rejoice. Though it has issues with some elements of the ordinance, the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (MCLA) is excited to see L.A. regain its title as “Mural Capital of the World”.

“It’s been eleven years,” MCLA executive director Isabel Rojas-Williams said. “Our muralists have been prisoners of this unfair decision that murals were not allowed on private property. We are very excited about that part. …This is very important for the cultural landscape of Los Angeles.”

The ordinance will provide regulatory oversight for new murals, while officially recognizing existing murals. To enjoy the full rights of the law, artists will be required to register their mural with the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, pay a registration fee, complete a form and undergo a 45-day waiting period in which the public can review and comment on the proposal.

According to MCLA, once installed, the mural cannot be removed or altered for two years, except in “particular circumstances.”

As proposed, murals would be allowed on all private properties with two or more units. However, council members are currently working with the city attorney to include language in the ordinance that allows communities that want to allow murals on single-family residences to “opt-in.”

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, 13th District, said the ordinance was approved contingent on the council setting up a joint meeting with the Planning and Land Use Committee and the Arts, Parks, Health & Aging Committee. He said six amending motions were proposed during the council’s vote last week, and the joint meeting aims to address all of them.

“It’s imperative for me that the issues brought up by my colleagues are addressed,” O’Farrell said, adding that the committees may find administrative solutions or send the ordinance back to the council with recommendations. He said the council should be able to iron out the details in three weeks. “Certainly, it will be soon.”

The councilman said Mayor Eric Garcetti will not sign the ordinance until the joint committee meets. He said the city attorney will sit in on that meeting.

“I think it’s more important that we move forward with an ordinance that’s going to work,” O’Farrell said, adding that the council wants to ensure that there are no unintended consequences. He would like to see murals approved on the condition that they have anti-graffiti coating.

The mural saga began as a result of unintended consequences. The mural ban started after the 2002 court nullification of the city’s Comprehensive Sign Code of 1986, which sought to ban new, off-site commercial signs. Since then, the city and artists have suffered, as the city’s history has been literally white-washed, Rojas-Williams said.

“We’re going to again have magnificent murals in Los Angeles as we had in the ‘80s,” she said, referencing muralists Kent Twitchell and Richard Wyatt. “Many of today’s muralists have been inspired by those muralists. …I am very delighted that the city officials have restored the freedom of expression to artists and that we will finally be able to lift the 2002 mural moratorium.”

Councilman Paul Koretz, 5th District, was among the two council members to vote against the ordinance. He said his vote was related to the comments he’s received from his constituents.

“In my district, I have only received feedback in opposition,” Koretz said.

While pleased with the recent development, MCLA has been busy restoring murals throughout Los Angeles. The organization has been aggressive and active in restoring the murals painted before the Olympic on L.A.’s freeways. Rojas-Williams invited the public and other organizations to join the effort.

“We believe that this is the legacy we have to leave for future generations,” she added.

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