UPDATE TUESDAY JAN. 15: With lingering debates, the City of Los Angeles mural ordinance moved past Planning Land Use Management Tuesday afternoon. It's on to City Council, then to the Mayor's office. That leaves time for existing murals to be recognized. That becomes an important detail since Councilmember Jose Huizar pushed for an amendment to grandfather all murals before there is any implementation of permits and fees.
During the hearing's public comment, muralists dedicated to hand-painted works still refer to digital murals as inauthentic, and that is likely to be an argument for a long time. "With youth being exposed more to technology, the ability to transfer technology is a transition we are going through," reasoned Councilmember Ed Reyes, who chairs PLUM. "When youth, by hand gets transferred through technology is a bridge that has been created. In the traditional of mural art, deciding if it's good or bad, right or wrong; It's a philosophical question."
The ordinance was almost shelved once more when deciding how to allow single-family residences to host murals, yet be sensitive to the neighborhood at large. When it was suggested to allow time for more input, you could feel exasperation from the artists and committee members who have been in on this process for the long haul.
There was enough reason to consider the ordinance sound enough to be specific, yet allow room for additional policy considerations. The City of Los Angeles mural ordinance moves forward.
The city and its artists have the chance to get the year off to a good start. The mural ordinance gets another chance to be passed and move on to City Council for approval, ending a long ban on public art.
The Mural Ordinance has been revised and will be presented to Planning and Land Use Management Committee on Tuesday, Janurary 15, at the meeting scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at City Hall.
The recommendations come from the Planning Department, the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the City Attorney's office, whose goal is to provide guidelines that allow murals to be produced, yet stay enforceable against legal challenges.
In response to artists taking to the microphone during public hearings, the amendments include designating more policy that help prevent unregistered murals from being regulated as signs.
In the last decade art has been categorized as signage, causing conflicting enforcement by multiple departments, causing the end of many mural developments and productions.
The recommended revision will have existing murals listed on the Department of Cultural Affairs database grandfathered in as registered. Murals that did not go through an approval process will be offered a 6-month amnesty period to be registered.
Artists who focus on painted works have resisted digital works, demanding that their work be defined as "original work of visual art," while accusing digital works to be environmentally unsound. That aesthetic point has exposed a rivalry that became argumentative contention during the mural ordinance approval process.
The recommendation requests that digital printed images be listed as "Original Arts Installations." Those works would require fulfilling an additional approval process that is already in place.
The recommendation also states that "ambiguous terms like 'art' are too hard to legislate," and will give room for City officials to select which murals are liked or not liked. The recommendation goes on to propose that the ordinance be modified "to state that murals must be 'one-of-a-kind.'"
Another debated point from the November 20 PLUM hearing was not allowing residential buildings with fewer than five units to commission or display a mural. It has been reduced to two units, and still leaves single family homes up for negotiation as it heads to City Council -- if it passes on Tuesday.
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