Taggers back after mural painted over

HIGHLAND PARK The owners paid $3,000 for a religious-themed mural to be painted on the outside walls of the store. They said the taggers respected the imagery and stopped the graffiti.

But when someone in the neighborhood complained that the mural was offensive, the city told the owners they had to paint over it. Now the taggers are back.

"You'd come out here to the wall and pretty much, like I said, it looked like a chalkboard," said Anthony Antonio from the Los Paisanos Market.

The owners of Los Paisanos Market in Highland Park say that what had served as a deterrent to taggers is now little more than an open invitation -- a white wall that's tagged everyday.

Shortly after the Antonio family hired local artists to paint a mural, complete with a praying version of Guadalupe and a "Jesus Saves" sign, the tagging stopped. The wall remained clean, but then the city came calling.

"I guess it was working for a good three months, and we got this order to comply notice and we can't fight with the city," said Jacob Antonio from the Los Paisanos Market.

The Department of Building and Safety ordered the family to paint over the mural citing "excessive signage." They were told to get rid of it or face a $1,000 fine and/or six months imprisonment. The family complied and the graffiti came back.

"My standpoint is that theses kids, taggers, gang members, they respect the local artist that we hired and it was working," Antonio said.

L.A. City Councilman Ed Reyes says he is now working to find some way to allow a modified version of the mural to go back up.

"We're going to be researching some of my resources in our district to see how we can provide resources for the Antonios and put up a mural that both the establishment, the actual store, and the neighborhood could feel good about," said Councilman Reyes.

The Antonios say they would love to have their mural back up, even if it is a modified version. Now they are just waiting for the green light from the city.


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