By Anna Siqueiros and Lisbeth Espinosa
In 2011, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs announced that less than 1200 murals existed in the entire city, and L.A. is no longer the ‘mural capital’ of the country.
In an effort to revive its mural culture, the City of Los Angeles Department of Planning was tasked with coming up with a new mural ordinance to encourage new projects. Working with muralists from throughout the city a final mural draft ordinance was hammered out after a painstaking six month democratic process of discussion, drafting, editing and revising in meetings sometimes lasting three hours.
However, on July 12, 2012, the mural ordinance presented to the City of L.A. Planning Commissioners was not the ordinance the muralists had crafted.
Included in the final draft ordinance presented by City Planner Thomas Rothmann were conditions and limitations that were nowhere in the measure as previously drafted. These included:
· Murals can only be located on residential buildings of five or more units.
· Murals need to remain intact for a minimum of two years.
· Murals cannot exceed the height of the structure or 100 feet.
· Muralists pay an administrative permit fee of $60, $80 or $100 depending on the cost of materials.
· Revision of the L. A. Municipal Code definition of Original Art Mural to include “digitally-printed images” – a process of reproducing a mural on vinyl and installing it over the original.
Artists from all over L. A. attended the Planning Commission hearing to voice their concerns over an ordinance that will profoundly affect their livelihoods as muralists.
During public comment, more than 30 muralists plus professional individuals like David Diaz, PhD, an expert in urban planning and policy at CSULA, and organizations such as United Painters and Public Artists a collective of muralists and graffiti writers, the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles and the Venice Arts Council voiced their opposition to the mural ordinance.
Despite three votes on the motion to pass the ordinance on to the city council, the Planning Commissioners were unable to agree on the ordinance as presented. Debate on the ordinance has been postponed until Sept. 13, however no public comment will be allowed at that hearing.
If a decision is not made on that day, the ordinance will be submitted “as-is” to the Planning and Land Use Management Committee. If they pass the ordinance, it will be sent by the Los Angeles City Council for adoption.
To get involved in this matter, visit Mural Conservancy of L.A., www.muralconservancy.org, United Painters and Public Artists, www.unitedpainterspublicartists.com, or the Venice Arts Council, www.veniceartscouncil.org.
Anna E. Siqueiros is a prominent L.A. artist and muralist and the great niece of David Alfaro Siqueiros, legendary painter of the first mural in L.A., “America Tropical” on Olvera Street in 1932.
Lisbeth Espinosa, an art historian and lecturer has documented L.A. murals for the last ten years.