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Los Angeles City Council paves way for return of murals

The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-2 to lift a decade-long moratorium on public art murals.
The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-2 to lift a decade-long moratorium on public art murals.
Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

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With a 13-2 vote, the Los Angeles City Council took steps Wednesday to overturn a a ban on murals, although the question of whether art displays belong on single-family homes remains unanswered. 

Because the ordinance did not receive a unanimous vote, it must receive a second vote by the council next week. 

"The city of Los Angeles was once known as the mural capital of the world," said Councilman Jose Huizar, who sponsored the ordinance. "The city of Los Angeles was known as  a place where it supported the arts, where we had free expression on our walls, and where we wanted to make sure that we continued to allow the artists' communities to flourish."

The new ordinance would allow non-commercial murals to once again be created throughout Los Angeles. A decade ago, a ban on murals was put into effect as the city struggled to regulate commercial billboards. Now, the Department of Cultural Affairs will have the authority to permit murals that will:

Huizar had hoped his colleagues would support a version of the ordinance that allowed murals to be created on single-family homes. That did not happen, but city officials did agree to draft an opt-in process for neighborhoods that want murals be allowed on their homes. The Department of Cultural Affairs will also consider a pilot program that would allow murals on single-family homes in the First and Fourteenth Districts in central and east Los Angeles. 

Artists who attended the city council meeting voiced support for allowing murals on homes. 

"This is no longer just a discussion of public arts, but the rights of private individuals to utilize their properties as a medium of speech," said Carlos Rogel with the Social and Public Art Resource Center, a non-profit that has produced dozens of murals in L.A. "Do not be fettered by a few who oppose artistic expression on private property. Let's keep the larger vision and present mind to allow this vital form of expression to flourish and exist on single family homes."

Councilmen Paul Koretz and Bob Blumenfield voted against overturning the mural ban. Koretz, who represents parts of West Los Angeles, told the council he had not heard any support from his constituents. Meanwhile, Blumenfield said his Valley constituents still have a lot of questions on how they could be impacted by the ordinance. 

The Planning and Arts committees will meet in 30 days to review murals on apartment buildings and duplexes. The committees will also look at requiring all new murals to have anti-graffiti coating.