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L.A. Leaders Begin to Address Famous but Depleting Mural Collection Across City

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Photo by Hachimaki via Flickr

Photo by Hachimaki via Flickr
Many people remember the freeway murals painted for the 1984 Olympics or the Los Angeles Marathon, but today they are hardly recognized as such. Between corrosion and graffiti the murals stand as a sad reminder of the issue of mural restoration. A Los Angeles City Council committee (.pdf) addressed the issue today in trying to find a way to not only fund restoration for pre-existing murals but also establish a system to permit the creation and instillation of fine art murals on private property, an issue most recently seen in Silver Lake where enforcement against a popular mural was taken.

Many of the City Councilmembers including Paul Krekorian and Jose Huizar feel that the more pressing issue is the one facing existing murals. Huizar reiterated a claim from Judith Baca, a famous muralist and professor at UCLA, that most murals in Los Angeles today are under attack. According to Huizar, murals are either being taken down accidentally, have been vandalized by graffiti, or are being cited for not having a permit.

Two solutions have been proposed. One suggests that part of the anticipated tax on billboards go to fund mural restoration or instillation. Another solution is to implement a moratorium on the citations being given out by the Department of Building and Safety.

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However an issue raised as a potential hindrance to any such plan is trying to distinguish between fine art murals and commercial signage and advertising. There is a process called Time, Place, and Manner regulations that allow the city to be “content blind” as Deputy City Attorney Ken Fong suggested. Regulations would be based on objective qualifications such as size, where it is, etc. Yet still Fong argued “the best advertising in the world doesn’t really have any text,” which would mean that either citations are legally given to both fine art murals and advertisements or the moratorium is a blanket moratorium for both as well.

The session ended with a request for more information and the issue will remain on City Council agenda in the future.