An Atascadero mural that has prompted debate in recent months over the property owners’ constitutional rights now has a chance to stay.
On Tuesday, the Atascadero City Council will consider voiding an earlier decision made by the city’s design review committee that barred a mural from remaining on the side of the ARTery building downtown at 5890 Traffic Way.
The 600-square-foot mixed-media piece, painted in May, features a person sitting under a large tree with blue-and-green tones highlighted by neon spray paint. The building owners said they thought they could get a city permit for the piece after it was completed.
But the city’s downtown design oversight committee denied the application on the grounds that the mural didn’t match downtown’s character. The owners were then faced with painting over it, spurring a controversy.
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After public attention swelled, the owners reapplied to the committee with several suggested changes to the mural at a meeting July 24.
But the changes were never considered because the ARTery’s attorney mentioned possible litigation, prompting city lawyers to look into the legality of enforcing the city regulation.
City officials list several court cases they say would allow Atascadero to regulate non-commercial murals, but staff still recommends the council drop the issue due to “ambiguities in the city’s sign code,” according to the staff report.
They’ll also recommend studying possible amendments to the city’s sign laws to clarify the rules to avoid similar clashes in the future.
The issue is reminiscent of Atascadero’s debate in 2010 over whether a pair of brightly colored bicycles painted on an outer wall of K-Man Cycle & Run along Highway 101 constituted a sign.
The City Council ultimately allowed the K-Man mural to stay and opted to waive about $700 in mural-application fees but didn’t tackle an overhaul of its ordinance.