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Artists to discuss proposed L.A. law that would end ban on murals

February 7, 2012 | 11:26 am

Valley Village mural

City of L.A. draft mural ordinance Street artists Shepard Fairey and Saber and L.A. City Council members Jose Huizar and Jan Perry will be among the panelists Tuesday night for a public meeting on a proposed ordinance that would legalize some street art in the city.

The panel will discuss the proposed language for the ordinance, which would allow artists to create murals on private property with the consent of the property owners.

Since 2002, under Los Angeles' “sign mural” ordinance, murals on private property have been banned while the city works on a new sign ordinance, which has been trapped in litigation.

The new mural ordinance will be separate from the sign law by identifying murals as something other than signs, with a focus on murals as “original works of art,” according to Tanner Blackman of the city planning department.

Officials estimate that more than 300 L.A. murals have been painted over in the last several years, frustrating artists as well as property owners who commission the murals.

Until now, city laws have equated murals with commercial signs, the legacy of lawsuits brought by billboard companies trying to preserve their right to place ads on businesses' walls. Currently, any mural on private property is legally considered commercial signage even if it's purely artistic in nature.

Huizar and others say the city needs to make a better distinction between art, which should be protected under the 1st Amendment, and commerce, which should be covered by the sign ordinance.

Over the years, some of Los Angeles' most famous murals on public and private property have been destroyed. Early this year, artist Saber blasted city leaders on Twitter and gathered more than 6,500 signatures on a petition to legalize murals and garnered celebrity support.

He even took his fight to the skies over City Hall, recently hiring skywriters to leave a smoke trail of words demanding an end to the mural moratorium.

"Art is not a crime," one message read.

The 7 p.m. panel discussion is being hosted by the Los Angeles Arts District BID and LALA Gallery at the gallery: 1335 Willow St. It also will feature L.A. Freewalls project curator Daniel Lahoda and Estela Lopez, executive director of the Central City East Assn.


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-- Richard Winton

Photo: Artist Ivan Salinas covers a section of a mural he painted in Valley Village. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times