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Who Decides When City Hall Gets Lit Up For A Special Occasion?

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Like monuments across the world, L.A.'s own City Hall was lit purple last night to honor Prince. We've seen L.A.'s City Hall—the Art Deco gem at the heart of our skyline—lit up with different colors quite a few times for special occasions, in celebration, as well as in solidarity after a tragedy.

We've long been been curious about the process and procedures behind the pretty colored lights, so we spoke with Matt Szabo, Deputy Mayor for Budget and Innovation, to get the full story.

For whom does City Hall glow? And who gets to decide? Szabo says it's up to the mayor and other city leaders to determine if an event warrants lighting City Hall, with requests also coming from City Council. There is no formal approval process, and the final decision to light (or not light) is ultimately in the hands of the mayor.

"We try to limit it to major events of citywide, national or international significance," Szabo says. "We've done it in solidarity with Paris after the tragedy there, with Brussels after the tragedy there, in the colors of their flag. We've done it for LGBT Heritage Month, and we've done it to honor the Lakers when they won the championship, for example. It depends on the prerogative of the city leaders."

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Prior to last night, the most recent lighting was in mid-April, when the building sported purple and gold colors in honor of Kobe Bryant's retirement. City Hall has also been lit purple in observance of the Armenian Genocide centennial, green to raise awareness about global warming, and blue to celebrate Dodger wins, among many other examples.

According to the L.A. Times, City Hall lights used to be left on to form a cross shape every Easter and Christmas until "1970s era lawsuits stopped the practice."

We should also probably clarify that the lighting process is a whole lot more complicated than just flipping a switch.

As Szabo says, "we do it the old-fashioned way." The city has a couple of vendors who work with their Department of General Services, and one of those vendors will be tasked with individually covering each of City Hall's more than 200 exterior lights with colored cells. Szabo says that the cost varies, depending on the type of work needed, and that the Department of General Services has a budget for this this type of activity. The process typically takes four or five hours to complete.