By Aaron Blevins, 7/05/2012
Committee Will Review Ban on July 12
Murals may once again blossom in the city, if a Los Angeles City Council ordinance is approved. The ordinance is expected to be heard at a July 12 planning commission meeting.
The news is welcome for area muralists, who have risked fines and citations when creating their artwork on private property over the last decade, said Shawni Dracoules, the former arts chair of the Mid-City West Community Council. If passed, the ordinance could set a standard for Los Angeles that could be a model for other cities, she said.
“I think the city will just erupt in color and beautiful imagery,” Dracoules said.
The mural ban on private property stems from sign and supergraphic ordinances that came before the council in 2002. Though the council created an exemption for art, court rulings led to a ban on murals on private property, according to information from the office of City Councilman José Huizar, 14th District.
However, Dracoules said it was not widely known that a ban was in place. She said the Los Angeles Police Department began to investigate the creation of murals, which are sometimes done with spray paint, as gang-related activities. In some cases, their work has been “buffed,” or whitewashed, by people with no legal standing to do so, Dracoules said. In the past two months, approximately 10 murals have been “buffed” illegally in the city, she said.
Dracoules referenced an incident in which an artist was paid only for his travels to create a mural in the city. After its completion, the owner of the business that served as the canvas had to close. The next tenant, a renter, had it removed without notifying the artist, Dracoules said.
“There’s been a lot of unfair treatment of the artists,” she added. “That’s a major, major, major issue. …Right now, these artists have absolutely no rights.”
Dracoules said Huizar enacted a temporary motion to allow vintage murals to remain unscathed, and in last couple years, the council has instituted a “ban on the ban.” However, the harassment has not necessarily waned, she said.
From July 2011 to March, area muralists, advocates and stakeholders from all over Los Angeles County have been meeting with city officials to work on the ordinance. Dracoules said a lot of the language in the ordinance is based on those discussions.
She said it will formalize the process, and artists will likely be required to file for permits and pay fees that are specific to types of murals. If residents do not like a particular piece of artwork, there may be “proper channels” to express their grievances after the fact, Dracoules said.
“They’re really doing what they can to bring it back,” she added.
According to Huizar’s office, if passed, the draft ordinance will move to the council’s Planning and Land Use Committee before heading to the city council. In a statement, Huizar said he’s been looking to resolve the mural ban for several years.
“Growing up in Boyle Heights, I remember when Los Angeles truly was the ‘Mural Capital of the World,’” he said. “It’s important that, through an open and public process, we create an environment where murals can flourish once again throughout the city.”
Councilman Paul Koretz, 5th District, agreed, saying that the city has been “much too restrictive” on murals in the past.
“Murals are a positive thing for the city,” he said. “I am much more open to allowing more murals, and keeping them around. My only concern is when they fall into disrepair. I’d like to have a system in place so they could be restored. If they become covered by graffiti, they can become more of a negative than a positive. Other than that, I have no overriding opposition to having more murals.”
Dracoules, the director of the Miracle Mile Art Walk Gallery and Studio Tour, is hopeful that the ordinance will pass, offering an opportunity to encourage and inspire artists to work on mediums outside the studio.
“This has to happen now,” she said. “Art is under attack in Los Angeles.”
For information, visit cityplanning.lacity.org.