After the mural on the front of his bookstore got a reprieve last week from being painted over, store owner Roy Laird praised the city planning staff, particularly Planning Assistant Michael Pina, for helping him understand the complex process of having the mural declared public art. That praise is apparently well-deserved, but the process remains too complex and unnecessarily heavy-handed. The City Council should review how its sign ordinance defines a sign, and what is involved in declaring something public art.
Laird first was told the painting on the building — a building he does not own — was a sign and, when added to the two mentions of his bookstore on an awning he installed, totaled three signs, exceeding the minimum of two. This despite the fact that the painting depicting a beehive, flowers and birds contains no lettering whatsoever.
Then Laird was told he could apply to have the mural declared public art, but that would mean the building's owner would be donating the art to the city, which would retain final control over its future existence.
Last week, Pina granted Laird an extension of the deadline for removing the mural until the September meeting of the Public Arts Commission. But that doesn't remove the dilemma he faces — or the potential cost. Even if the building's owner agreed to the donation process and the City Council signed off, city rules apparently require a "site review" at a cost of $1,000.
It's hard to see how it could cost that much for some people to look at the building and its wordless decoration. The council should look at its ordinances instead.