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Sure, Murals Are Legal Now, But The City Is Still Painting Over New Murals

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Some murals get taken down for not having the right signatures (Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah/LAist)
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Murals might be legal downtown now, but it doesn't mean we're seeing more of them yet. In reality, L.A. might be covering up as many as they're allowing to be painted. The ban that prevented murals from being painted on privately owned buildings was overturned last fall. In response, artists Shepard Fairey and RISK put up a pair of matching murals entitled “Peace and Justice” on the Rossmore Hotel in Skid Row. The piece was hailed as the first legal mural in L.A., but it's since been covered up. Similarly, Ron English's "Urban Bigfoot" has also been covered up. In both cases, it's been because the murals did not have the proper registration or permits, Downtown News reports.

To put up a mural and have it stay up, there's a $60 fee, then some paperwork. How complicated this is varies. In the case of "Urban Bigfoot," the approval came not from the person who owned the building, but from a tenant. In the case of "Supermodel," which was used for a Foster the People music video, the mural was considered an advertisement because it was the also the cover of the band's new album, and it lacked a signature from the Office of Historic Resources despite being on what is considered a historic building. Backing from Mayor Eric Garcetti didn't do a thing.

Daniel Lahoda, who works with L.A. Freewalls, told Downtown News that he's "a proponent of strong public policy, but I don't think the city is putting forward a good-faith effort to protect works when administering the ordinance." An issue he specifically highlighted was the city sending a non-compliance letter to a building owner without also telling them that the mural on their building could stay because it was grandfathered.

There are some murals that seemed poised to stay however, including the recently competed 'Skid Row' map. City officials maintain that if all necessary steps are taken, you can indeed put up a lasting mural downtown.

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Councilman Jose Huizar says there are murals coming through the registration process and that he expects more to pop up—and stay up—downtown in the next few months.