By Monica Luhar, Dec. 9, 2013, Southern California Public Radio
Last week, the Los Angeles City Council approved an amendment that would allow murals on single-family residences in three districts. But, because they weren’t able to achieve a unanimous vote on the matter, the Council scheduled a second hearing for the ordinance tomorrow.
The ordinance would affect homes in districts: 1, 9 and 14, which include Cypress Park, the western part of downtown L.A., parts of South L.A., Boyle Heights, El Sereno, Eagle Rock and other areas represented by Jose Huizar, Gil Cedillo and Curren Price.
The new ordinance follows legislation that passed the Council earlier this year overturning a city-wide ban on murals by a vote of 13-2.
Isabel Rojas-Williams, executive director of the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles, says she’s confident the motion will be approved Tuesday.
“With the passage of the mural ordinance signed by Eric Garcetti Sept. 6 — and the approval of this motion which will allow murals on single family residences at districts 1, 9 and 14 — our cultural landscape of Los Angeles is really recovering from something lost,” Williams said.
The Mural Conservancy of L.A. was one of the organizations behind the earlier ordinance, which lifted the 2002 moratorium on murals on private properties, and established a “Mural Day” to mark the occasion. The Conservancy was established in 1987 as a way to help protect and promote mural art in L.A. Over the years, the organization has worked to restore dozens of murals in the L.A. area.
Murals’ mark on LA
For many artists and muralists, the ordinance is a way to bolster creativity in L.A. and distinguish the city as the “Mural Capital of the World.”
Williams said murals attract tourism and help the economy.
“Murals give us much civic pride, attract tourism, and provide jobs. This new mural ordinance has restored muralists’ freedom of expression,” she said.
But some aren’t so happy about the idea.
Chris Spitz, vice president of the Pacific Palisades Community Council, says several communities and neighborhood councils like those in Pacific Palisades, Westchester, Playa Del Rey, Mar Vista and Westwood have called for a prohibition on murals in all residential zones.
“I am a supporter of murals in general — and I have no problem with communities or districts that actually want them everywhere to have them,’ she said in an email, “But along with many residents and community leaders, I want to see a fair and legal process that takes into account actual community considerations.”
Neighborhood art, advertising, or eyesore?
Some councilmembers have asked for a detailed report that would provide a way for homeowners in other districts to opt-in to the program. That report is expected in 45 days, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Murals don’t belong on single-family homes, according to an email from Barbara Broide, president of the Westwood South of Santa Monica Blvd. Homeowners Association.
“Our Westwood South of [Santa Monica] Blvd. Homeowners Association (and I personally) do not think that murals belong on single family homes,” she wrote.
Broide said the association did not oppose the proposal to allow murals on private homes in respect to areas where there is “a strong community desire to have them,” however.
“We believe that the ‘opt-in’ mechanism is the right way to go and that Planning should have been charged with creating the language and a streamlined process for implementation,” she said.
Allowing murals on single family homes could have aesthetic and economic ramifications, Broide says.
“If murals look like graffiti, will that result in an increase in graffiti in the area? If prospective home purchasers view the murals to be unattractive, will that hurt the marketability of nearby homes? If there are many murals in an area, will it tend to attract some and cause others to turn away?” Broide asked.
She’s talking about a large painting of a dog urinating on the side of a commercial building two blocks from her home, on Westwood Blvd.
“What is a lovely mural to you, may not be a wonderful mural to me. I may not appreciate the same types of art as my neighbor. I may not appreciate the message conveyed,” she said.
“While the choice was not mine, I can choose not to drive down that street or to look at the mural. However, if my next door neighbors had painted that mural across their garage door or on the fence across the street from my house, I would have to look at that image each and every day as I left and came to my home. It would not be pleasant.”
Muralists can start painting murals on single family residences and businesses within the districts, as long as they comply and register with the Department of Cultural Affairs through a fee of $60.
If the quorum of ten members is reached on Dec. 10, it will take eight votes—a simple majority of the 15 council members — to adopt the ordinance.