The City Council voted Wednesday to lift the city-wide ban on murals. From the LA Times:
The new rules, which must come back for an expected final approval next week, will permit new murals in business and industrial zones as long as artists register projects with the city and pay a $60 application fee. Commercial messages are prohibited and works must remain for at least two years as part of the city effort to control advertising.
Murals have long been an iconic part of Los Angeles. Drive the streets or walk the sidewalks of many neighborhoods, and you’ll see an abundance of public murals on buildings and walls. The works range from the provocative to the poetic to the absurd. In fact, there are so many murals in the city, Los Angeles has been dubbed the Mural Capital of the World.
But here’s the irony about mural art in the city: since 2002 L.A.’s had regulations on the books largely banning the painting of outdoor works of art on private properties. Why? The mural ban was added to existing ordinances, which attempted to restrict unregulated signage and advertising in Los Angeles.
Many of the murals that been painted on L.A. buildings in the decade since have been illegal. And that, according to many arts advocates, turns mural artists into outlaws and hurts the wider cause of creating powerful works of public art in L.A. that engage both the eye and mind. “It has created a climate that is an anti-mural climate in the City of Los Angeles,” says Judy Baca, prominent L.A. muralist and founder of the community arts group Social & Public Art Resource Center.
Supporters of allowing murals on houses say it’s an issue of freedom of expression and allowing property owners the right to do what they want with their own homes. But one person’s artistic vision could be another person’s eccentric eyesore. Some neighborhood associations have expressed concerns that allowing murals on homes could increase visual blight in L.A. and depress property values.
The dispute over murals on homes aside, even a partial rollback of L.A.’s mural ban means more new works of art won’t just be displayed in L.A’s museums and galleries, they will also be found on the streets.