Atascadero business owner at center of city's public art policy controversy

K man mural in Atascadero.
David Middlecamp
K man mural in Atascadero. David Middlecamp 2-12-2010 The Tribune

An Atascadero business owner is at the center of the community’s fight to change its public art policy.

Keith Schmidt, owner of K-Man Cycle & Run, was told to pay a $605 permit application fee for a scribble art mural completed by artist Kathleen King in January.

Before King started the mural, Schmidt researched the protocol for having it painted and was told there was no distinction between a mural and a sign, so he would be required to pay the same amount as a signage fee.

Although Schmidt did not agree that his mural is the same a sign, he said he will pay the fee but has not done so yet.

After the mural was finished, Schmidt received a letter from Atascadero’s Community Development Department informing him that because the mural depicts two cyclists, it promotes his business, which also qualifies it as a sign, Schmidt said.

“There is a huge amount of gray area in the city code,” Schmidt said. “We want to get the wording changed so they can separate artwork from signage.”

King also disagrees with the signage fee.

“There is no lettering or logo, which makes it different than a sign.” King said.

He has received support from community members, who Schmidt says have taken the issue more seriously than he has.

“I don’t like to be the center of attention, but everyone is out to make some good come from all this,” Schmidt said. “We want Atascadero to be like the nearby cities that have public art.”

Warren Frace, community development director, told Schmidt that if his store were in a different district, the application fee would be waived and his mural could have been paid for through a state-funded beautification project.

Frace said the mural is considered a sign because its size exceeds what is allowed under the Community Development Department’s code, adding that because the community is concerned about the fee, it will be an agenda item for the next City Council meeting Feb. 23.

King said she hopes the dispute will serve as a catalyst for the City of Atascadero to appreciate public art and create a review process for art and murals.

According to King, city officials said the mural was too large because it was larger than 40 square feet.

“By definition, a mural is a large piece of artwork,” King said. “They don’t recognize anything on a wall being anything other than a sign.”