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Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Los Angeles' mural moratorium could be overturned

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A decade-long moratorium on public murals could be overturned Wednesday when the Los Angeles City Council votes on an ordinance regulating public art.

Los Angeles was once known as one of the world's mural capitals, with public displays of art stretching from East L.A. to the freeways to Venice. But that changed 10 years ago when city officials tried to regulate commercial billboards. According to Councilman Jose Huizar, art got tangled up with advertisements.

"The idea was that the city first wanted to better get a handle on what all the sign litigation was about, [to] resolve that before we move back into murals," Huizar said. "So there was a sort of moratorium on murals and now that we've gotten a better handle on the litigation, we're moving forward to allow murals to flourish once again."

The Los Angeles City Council is on the cusp of approving an ordinance that would allow artists to once again paint murals in the city. The artworks would be allowed as long as permits are sought and issued, the murals meet size and space restrictions, and are non-commercial in nature. Vintage art murals would be grandfathered in.

"It's a cultural bridge between the streets and art institutions," said Isabel Rojas-Williams, executive director of the Los Angeles Mural Conservancy, which along with 11 other art groups is urging the city council to OK the new law.

"It is extremely important because not only is it freedom of expression and freedom of speech, but it also attracts tourism, provides jobs and educates and empower people," she said.

The city council will actually be looking at two versions of the same ordinance. The only difference — one would allow murals to be painted on single-family homes. Neighborhoods that don't want murals in their community would have to opt out of the ordinance.

"I support it. Unfortunately, I don't think we have the support in council," Huizar said. "I support it because in my area, the Eastside of Los Angeles, it's common."

The mural ordinance has the backing of the city's Department of Cultural Affairs. The L.A. City Council will consider the new law on Wednesday at 10 a.m.

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