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LA City Council considers changing mural law

October 25, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Los Angeles is known as the "street mural capital of the world," but those murals have been disappearing, thanks largely to city law.

"This mural movement has been relevant in our city for almost 40 years, and its being slowly destroyed," said artist Frank Romero.

Romero painted one of the most famous murals in Los Angeles history. The homage to the 1984 Olympics was once found along the 101 Freeway.

"Eventually Caltrans painted it out," said Romero. "They didn't ask for my permission even though we had a contract."

Romero sued Caltrans, but he lost.

Current city law views most murals on public lands as advertisements that should be painted over. City officials said that in the last several years, they've painted over more than 300, including a fence commissioned by Barbara Black, who was fined by the city.

"They're not whitewashing the wall, they're whitewashing me," said Black.

The artist Saber is fighting back after his mural was painted over. He's leading an online drive called "Art Is Not A Crime."

More than 6,000 have signed his petition to the Los Angeles City Council to change the law.

"We are directing the city attorney to come back with language that gives us a range of access points for muralists to be able to do their work," said Councilman Ed Reyes.

The big challenge for the city council going forward is distinguishing between art and ads.

For the sake of a great city tradition, Romero hopes a compromise can be reached.

"It would be great to see it come back," he said.

Reyes said he hopes to have a compromise in place in the next six to eight months.

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