|Daily News Article: Carwash's Publicist Rats Out Pet Store in Ongoing Mural Flap||| Print ||
|Friday, 21 March 2008 04:26|
Carwash's publicist rats out pet store in ongoing mural flap.Byline: Dana Bartholomew
STUDIO CITY -- First came a mural of Studio City history, ordered erased from a local carwash.
Next came the oversized fish, Fifi and Fido signs at Petco, ordered removed this month by city code enforcers.
Residents angry about murals, signs and the city's myriad sign laws and selective enforcement have tipped off city inspectors, triggering a tit- for-tat sign spat that can mean fines or jail time.
"I would like to get (in) a war over this," said publicist Jack McGrath, who fingered the Petco window dressing after his carwash client was told to erase its 5-foot-by-60-foot mural.
"It's signs like (Petco's) that have ruined murals for everybody."
Following a citizen complaint, the Building and Safety Department last month ordered the Studio City Hand Car Wash to obliterate its historic mural.
But after initially obscuring its mural to comply with the city code, the carwash felt it was OK to remove the curtain covering the artwork Saturday since it is now applying for a proper permit.
Following another complaint by McGrath, the department this week ordered the landlord of Petco to take down its dog and cat window art at 12800 W. Ventura Blvd.
The order, effective today, states that window signs are banned except for store names, hours or holiday motifs.
The company has until April 18 to comply.
"We respond to complaints," said Frank Bush, chief inspector for the Code Enforcement Bureau. "They have too many signs in the windows. Window signs are prohibited in the Cahuenga Specific Plan."
McGrath said he tattled on Petco in order to nudge the city to rethink a mural sign ordinance passed six years ago that has effectively banned new murals.
The ordinance requires murals to be approved through the Planning and Cultural Affairs departments and be permitted according to a region's specific plan -- a process that can take six months.
"I'm trying to change the ordinance so that the mural painters can just do their work," said McGrath, who wants to commission a farmer's market mural.
Petco, a San Diego-based pet supplier with 850 stores, said it hung its vinyl window pets in order to obscure unsightly product racks.
The company will now probe the city's 63-page sign manual in order to find an alternative.
"The decision to put images on the windows in the first place was made because we felt that the racks wouldn't be very appealing," said Petco spokesman Kevin Whalen via e-mail. "And we'd be surprised if our customers and the public would rather look at shelving than at images of animals."
Some have criticized the city's selective enforcement on business signs and murals.
"Right now, there is no consistency," said Ray Franco, president of the Studio City Improvement Association. "The city picks and chooses."
Others say the city's mural ordinance is not only selectively enforced, but could violate free-speech rights on private buildings while failing to distinguish between real art and advertising.
Once the mural capital of the world, Los Angeles has lost more than half of its 3,000 murals to vandalism and graffiti.
"They're taking murals down which are being painted on private buildings ... a violation of First Amendment rights," said Judith Baca, a leading muralist who led the painting of the half-mile "Great Wall of Los Angeles" in the Tujunga Wash. "Meanwhile, there are huge advertisements everywhere going up -- look at the downtown skyline."
City officials have taken note.
"It's ridiculous that the city doesn't have a practical and user-friendly policy on murals," said Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, who said in a statement that she's working to revamp mural policy.
"Unfortunately, the way the law is currently constituted, these orders are being issued in a haphazard fashion and enforcement is generally pursued on a complaint-only basis. I plan to correct that."
"I'm going to be looking at this," added Councilman Tom LaBonge, who met with officials Tuesday to plan how to save city murals and encourage more. "Murals are the cultural fiber of Los Angeles."