Tue, May

LA Murals: The Agony, and the Ecstasy

VOICES - On the floor at LANCC this past Saturday was a conversation and motion to pass along recommendations to the Neighborhood Councils and the City Council after a lengthy discussion, which was unexpected by many.

Since then, a couple of bloggers who were present have disseminated their negative views, and meanwhile over the weekend, some extraordinary murals have been produced to the acclaim of their neighborhoods. (See Perspective: LANCC Gets Muralized)  

The original ban on murals was a hasty and knee jerk reaction to a situation that many felt had gone out of control, with no thought to how to produce a policy that was thoughtful and sensitive to the cultural differences that are reflected throughout our great city, often via our Murals. 

Reviewing the history and the many hours that the City Attorney’s office had devoted to producing its 279 page report, the dissension within the Dept. of Planning, and the efforts of over 200 Artists to appear at hearings at City Hall, it seemed that we were still far away from respecting both the creators of murals rights, and the rights of those that have to live with them. So I pitched 6 items to consider at LANCC, and then we created a 7th

We should be proud to be able to speak, and discourse on the subject of Murals; they have been an integral part of humanities existence for thousands of years. Wikipedia offers many good points on the political contributions of Murals:

Throughout history Murals have caused much public and private debate including the execution of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. In London, murals by Banksy are being ripped off of walls and auctioned off for incredible amounts of money. 

Driving through Los Angeles there are many examples of Murals, and some will be affected by the 2 versions of the Mural Ordinance under consideration for the City Council. 

Interesting to note that at Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM), both versions were moved to City Council, but with out recommendations. The PLUM Committee itself could not reach consensus. 

In a concession to artists, both versions included installation techniques beyond paint. LANCC recommendation (Item 2) was written to ensure that anything other than paint must meet LADBS guidelines for public safety reasons. 

Both City Council versions have strict guidelines of where the murals can be applied. And both versions offer a mandate of 5 years of upkeep. Never mind that either the artist, or the property owner might have other terms of commitment intended. 

LANCC (Item 3) acknowledges the agreements between the artist and property owner are the important agreements and that they should be kept on file for the public too. 

Last weekend a very important Mural was finished in Reseda, which also is home to a multitude of murals painted on homes.  There is a 40-50 years old history in Reseda and especially in NELA. 

Community members have documented the ones in Reseda and some of the photos are on the Reseda Centennial Face book page:  

My suggestion, in order to honor the murals that have been a part of LA’s history is that (Item 1) be further modified that Murals on residential properties also be grandfathered in-as Item 6 would create a system, where Murals could be painted over if the community objects to a particular Mural.



LANCCs recommendations are these: 

1)     Immediately lift the ban on Murals, which would apply retroactively as well, with the exclusion of Murals painted on Residential Properties


2)     Define Murals in the traditional manor; as consisting of paint (applied with any technique) to a structure, whether on commercial or residential property.


3)     Recommend that any agreements between the creator of a Mural and the Property Owner, be sent to the Dept. of Planning to be kept on file and attached to the Parcel Profile Report


4)     Clarify that Murals that constitute “Off Site Signage” shall fall under the jurisdiction of the City of LA’s regulations for all Commercial signage.


5)     Clarify that Creative Installations that exceed the definition of a Mural in the Traditional sense fall under the category of Public Art Installation and fall under the regulations of the Cultural Heritage Commission and LADBS.


6)     Because Murals have a history of also being a political statement; I suggest creating a process of Conflict Resolution for when there may be an issue regarding a Mural. This process would begin at the community level, with a hearing, at the Neighborhood Council. If a mediated resolution were not reached, the next level would be to take the matter before the Cultural Heritage Commission.


7)     Direct the Department of Planning to develop a Permit process for Murals on Residential Properties that begins with a presentation at the Neighborhood Council.


Among the many fears of the lifting of the ban is that tagging will become more prevalent-but even gangbangers know the difference between tagging and art. I know the haters will keep on hating, but thank goodness the painters will keep on painting!




The City Council File


Report from the City Attorney


More info on  LA’s Murals 


(Alisa Smith is a community activist and Secretary at the LA Neighborhood Council Coalition.) Photo credit: Hank Truxillo






Vol 11 Issue 64

Pub: Aug 9, 2013