Welcome to Saint-Louistan!

Posted by Murals for Saint-Louistan on July 25, 2011 | 41 Comments

You may have heard the famous phrase “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech …”.

“Not so fast!” say a group of St Louis Aldermen concerned with the beauty of our city.

According to Ordinance 66934, you may not have graffiti on your own property, even if you like it or you put it there yourself. Not only that; agents of the City may break into your property, paint it over, and send you a bill. Resist and you will be fined or go to jail. The matter gets worse if you consider how they define graffiti:

“Graffiti– Any unauthorized mark, inscription, word, figure, picture, notation or design drawn, written, etched, painted, sprayed, marked, posted, pasted or otherwise affixed, drawn, or painted on any surface of any building, public, private or personal property. Graffiti shall not mean a sign lawfully erected and maintained as required by other ordinances.”

So, you either put a sign (lawfully erected) or a graffiti (unauthorized). This seems to leave no room for public art and other nice perks that you get from the first amendment. Yet, the matter is murky since they never define “authorized”/”unauthorized”.

You should read the ordinance. It is definitely poorly written, but it is short and will get your blood going – and boiling.

But if you are not into that kind of prose, here are the most relevant parts.

Here it says you cannot have unauthorized “graffiti” on your own property even if you like it:

“It is unlawful for any person to maintain graffiti that has been placed upon, or allow graffiti to remain upon, any surface within that person’s control, possession or ownership when the graffiti is visible from a public street, public alley, other public right-of-way and other public property.”

Here it says that they can break into your house or place of business to “fix it” without even having a court order:

“Any person employed, or contracted with, for the abatement of a nuisance as provided for in this ordinance and any agent or employee of such person shall have the right of entry for that purpose into and upon any premises.”

And here it says they will send you the bill:

“The Forestry Commissioner shall bill the owners of any property on which the City abates a nuisance under this ordinance for the cost of such abatement.”

And, finally, here is where it says that you can go to jail or pay a fine if you refuse or in some way obstruct their wrongful behavior.

“Any person who shall violate provisions of this ordinance shall upon conviction thereof, be subject to a fine of not less than fifty dollars ($50.00) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500.00) or imprisonment for a term not to exceed ninety (90) days, or both, at the discretion of the Court.”

The good News

First, we are not in the Banana Republic of Saint-Louistan and we are all protected by the first amendment. Second, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled in favor of freedom of speech with respect to the “End Eminent Domain Abuse” mural near interstates 44 and 55. Third, though it will have to be modified in light of the court’s ruling, Section 26.68.020 of the zoning code which defines what is a sign and what is not, leaves room for many things that are not authorized but also not illegal such as “Works of art which in no way identify a product”. According to the code, you can have those without even having to get a permit.

Finally, the ordinance was created by our aldermen with the intention of protecting our built environment from unscrupulous graffiti and vandalism. They have gone a little too far, but very likely they’ll be open to listen to their constituents about this issue. In fact, alderman Ortmann has allowed the Cherokee Street Mural to stay after a lot of us said we didn’t want it painted over.

All this means that the ordinance can be modified or struck down with a bit of dedication and a lot of public discussion. The timing could not be better; their ears are open and our concerns are reasonable.

Your part

All you have to do is post your comments below, and spread the word.

Have you tried to make a mural and ran into trouble? Do you have ideas on how the ordinance should read? Do you know how to make our city more open to artistic and cultural expression? Do you think public art can help revitalize our city? Do you think the ordinance should stay as it is? Anything else?

Just say it.

It will go a long way.

  1. Amy VanDonsel on July 25, 2011 2:55 pm

    Completely spot on. It’s absurd that laws are created to allow painting on other people’s things without permission in an attempt to address the “problem” of people painting on other people’s things without permission.

    Many beautiful and thoughtful works of art which were created on private property with the total permission, approval, and enthusiasm of the property owner have tragically been painted over and removed, most importantly compromising the rights of the property owner, but also undermining the innate relationship between culture and community and often times working against what I believe are the original intents of such ordinances.

    We’re often told a line that “graffiti” is merely gang tags and that its removal shows pride in the appearance of community, and that these actions will work toward diminishing violent activity. This is supposedly the purpose of these ordinances. Sadly, that’s a gross over-simplification, and this ordinance reaches far beyond such intentions.

    The primary “unauthorized” activity here is actually this removal of artworks from private property, which, among other things, reflect community pride, property upkeep/improvement, and frequently address the issue of violence – the removal of cultural objects which address the very issues this ordinance only pretends to address. At the very least, such activity should require prior permission from the property owner and the property owner should not be charged.

  2. Bob Carlson on July 25, 2011 3:27 pm

    back when the late R. Roger Pryor was the head of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, he did his front yard in native prairie grasses. the seeds cost fifty bucks a pound. the city kept fining him under its noxious weed ordinance. a little sanity wouldn’t hurt.

  3. Jenn on July 25, 2011 6:20 pm

    We got the ok on our temporary murals. Maybe the key is screws.

  4. The Joker on July 26, 2011 2:55 am

    We could try to negotiate, and come to some sort of agreement of how a street that less and less belongs to us could be ‘managed’, or we can do away with a system that keeps us forever on our knees begging for small scraps of dignity. But, I’m sure ‘reasonable’ people will choose the former.

  5. Bob on July 26, 2011 9:23 am

    There is a BIG Difference Between Graffiti and Public Art!!!

  6. Reasonable. on July 26, 2011 5:06 pm

    Dear THE JOKER,

    How come you’re not very funny? If you were funny, people would like you more.

  7. Bint_alBeatz on July 26, 2011 5:54 pm

    My favorite part about St. Louis is its graffiti, murals, and street art. Why should something that beautifies the city be illegal? Yes, we all have different conceptions of what is beautiful and what is not, but that’s the fun of art. It provokes thought and subverts preconceptions. As long as it’s not infringing on another person’s rights, I don’t see any reason why it should be illegal.

  8. Reasonable. on July 26, 2011 6:12 pm

    It seems to me that if a specific community of people agrees as a whole to disallow any sort of public art, they should have a right to make the rules they want regarding the topic.

    Cherokee street and the surrounding neighborhood, however, embrace public art such as the mural that is mentioned in the above article. We should certainly have the right to keep it.

    My point is that perhaps while the approach to artwork embodied in the ordinance may work in a place like Clayton or the CWE, it does not work here.

  9. Juan on July 26, 2011 6:22 pm

    I don’t agree. It is a freedom of speech issue. Murals are an indispensable medium of expression since they reach people you cannot reach by other means.

  10. Reasonable. on July 26, 2011 6:49 pm

    Juan, that definitely makes sense to me.

    But let’s just say, as a hypothetical, that a neighborhood (let’s say Midtown) gets really really tired of a particular image that has been especially widespread in its application (let’s say a stenciled earlobe)… shouldn’t they have a right to compel the artist to cool it on the spray painting a bit?

  11. Peat on July 26, 2011 6:52 pm

    Juan, I know that this is Law on “Graffiti” is VERY unclear and unjustified and needs to be revised!

    I Appreciate your concern but…PLEASE REMOVE THE POST… this is going to make everyone MORE confused and nervous about creating Art and building owners won’t want to give people permission to create art on their buildings because the city might confuse it with graffiti.

    This week I WAS commissioned to do a MURAL (not Graffiti) on a building on Jefferson…THIS POST has NOW delayed production…which in turn delays money that feeds my three boys and wife.

    I have put o lot of Energy in creating art and to get more MURALS on Cherokee…and I know many other artists trying to beatify and add character to the this amazing street…but this post will not help!!!

    If you can Maybe post the story on
    eminent domain mural that was recently in the news
    http://www.ksdk.com/news/article/266902/3/Court-ruling-on-eminent-domain-abuse-mural I know iut not the same exact thing…but would be better information to help our case.

    My motivation in not to Vandalize but to Beautify…and to add a little more color CHEROKEE!

  12. Reasonable. on July 26, 2011 6:56 pm

    Please don’t remove this post. People have a right to know what’s at stake when they agree to have a mural painted.

    I want more murals and public art… and graffiti, but open discussions like this are essential.

  13. Peat on July 26, 2011 8:23 pm

    REASONABLE (why are you posting anonymously):

    Commissioned Murals aren’t graffiti…

    You do not know the previous discussion I have have with Juan about public art on Cherokee…posting this article is irresponsible and confuses the situation further making sound like murals ARE Graffiti.

    For the record…I am not a graffiti artist..watch this and you may be enlightened.

  14. Reasonable. on July 26, 2011 8:31 pm

    Anonymous because its the internet and that’s how sh*t goes.

    I understand… you are not a graffiti artist. And murals are not graffiti. Murals are, however, illegal according to the above ordinance which is (unfortunately) still in place. Property owners have an absolute right to know this when they are commissioning murals.

    Moreover, it is irresponsible and unethical for you to accept a commission of a mural without informing the owner of the property of the illegality of murals (again according to the above ordinance).

    I think that the above article is crystal clear in quoting the ordinance, explaining it, and condemning it.

  15. Peat on July 26, 2011 8:49 pm

    I does not say anywhere that Murals are illegal…

  16. Reasonable. on July 26, 2011 9:11 pm

    The ordinance defines graffiti as ‘any unauthorized mark…’

    It seems to be a safe assumption for a property owner that murals which do not have a permit are unauthorized… and therefore defined as graffiti and illegal. After all, didn’t you have to get a permit for the mural in the photo?

    Now if the person who commissioned the piece has a permit, then your mural would be legal. Or if the property owner fully knows the legal hazards and wants to proceed anyway, absolutely go for it! I support it wholeheartedly.

    To make it perfectly clear, I am in favor of public art and murals, etc. BUT property owners have a right to know the information that is provided in this article. If they get nervous after being made aware of the legal issues and potential hazards of having a mural painted, so be it.

  17. snjmom on July 26, 2011 9:26 pm

    I would have interpreted the “authorized” in the bill being the property owners authorization, not the Alderman’s.

  18. Reasonable. on July 26, 2011 9:33 pm


    That would seem appropriate, except from past events in the city (such as, if I am not mistaken, the mural pictured above) it is evident that a permit is necessary even if the owner authorizes the mural.

  19. The Joker on July 27, 2011 2:23 am

    And the discussion has turned into what is permissible, and what isn’t, and who has the power to say it is or isn’t. What is art, or murals, or graffiti, and so forth.
    If this is all about giving VOICE to people. Then everyone should have a voice. Not whoever ‘building owners’ decide what is proper to speak or convey. Must those with money ALWAYS have the final say in things? Does not the ownership of mainstream media shout at us enough? Can we dare prick up our ears for once to listen to another voice that doesn’t shout the language of commodities at us?
    And in mentioning “graffiti”, it has almost always been a cheap, easy, and easily reproducible way of those who feel more marginalized to scream out loud, or if they prefer to not be so coherent – then to make whatever art they please.
    Once again, one’s voice cannot be GIVEN by a politician, a building owner, a ‘representative’ of any sort. It has to first be USED by whom it belongs to, and reverberate from there. THIS self-determination is what I encourage.

  20. Murals for Saint-Louistan on July 27, 2011 9:34 am

    PEAT: You are basically asking us to shut up so you can have your mural. This kind of attitude is a big part of the reason we have so many stupid laws in Saint-Louistan. We are sorry this complicates your plans, but we don’t really feel compelled by your arguments to take back our words.
    Laws are not given to us from above like in High School. This is our city and we make our laws collectively through time. That is why it is important to know what laws we have and talk about them.
    Our understanding is that to modify this ordinance we need at least one alderman to present a new ordinance changing it, and enough of the other aldermen to vote for it. And this is the point of the public discussion in this forum: to create a body of ideas that can be used to make a better law than what we have and to hopefully motivate our aldermen to action.
    So yeah, the post stays.

  21. Peat on July 27, 2011 10:53 am

    JAUN: Not sure why you are hiding behind your posts…I am not trying to do anything but improve the neighborhood, and it seems to me you are hurting the situation…not helping.

    It is also strange that All of a sudden you are trying to be involved with murals/streetart on cherokee and have had no intrest/experience with it in the past.

    If you Are truly tring to help the situation…don’t you make a post about something negative or confusing….positivity is what we need right now….authorize murals arn’t Graffiti!


  22. Reasonable. on July 27, 2011 1:15 pm


    Again, that was a little better, but still not really funny. Do you have any photos of you with balloon animals? or a big rubber nose or something?

    Maybe this line of work is not really what you’re cut out for.

  23. Reasonable. on July 27, 2011 1:23 pm

    The post was clear and, while pointing out something negative (the ordinance), had a positive outlook on changing the situation. Just because it ruins your plans does not make it negative or confusing.
    Also, you are not the only one who has a say in this. There is no prerequisite for taking an interest in murals. Members of the community have a right to post and read this information! You are asking us to hold back because it prevents you from profiting? How exactly did this post ruin your plans? was it because the person hiring you did not know the ordinance?

  24. Reasonable. on July 27, 2011 1:24 pm

    I realize the use of the word ‘us’ in the above post may be misleading… I have no affiliation with the folks who wrote the post nor do they with me.

  25. Murals for Saint-Louistan on July 27, 2011 2:56 pm

    [Peat: Definitely, we need a positive attitude. Snapping at you wasn’t right, though it seems a pretty negative thing to ask people to take down their posts. Anyhow, all is good.]

    Authorized murals are not graffiti according to the ordinance. But the problem is that the ordinance does not say who is supposed to authorize the mural. By implication, we know that the authorization does not come from the building owner since the unauthorized “graffiti”/mural can be removed without his/her consent. So, maybe the authorization should come from the City. But why should the City have that power? So, it looks like it is a matter of freedom of speech. The definition of graffiti as an unauthorized mark includes even the most beautiful murals if they are not authorized.

    Another problem is the lack of clarity in the law. Unclear laws not only cause confusion, they also foster abuse since they encourage arbitrary application.

  26. Amy VanDonsel on July 27, 2011 3:40 pm

    Having a wrench thrown in one’s plans is frustrating and I’m all for being positive, but the idea that information and discussion should be withheld or removed because it might confuse or scare people is troubling. As is the idea that some people are allowed to be interested in things and some are not?

    That being said, Peat, I love you, is there anything I can do to help with this now stalled project?

  27. Sam Coffey on July 27, 2011 5:28 pm

    Juan/Peat- I enjoyed the article and believe that it encompasses many residents/biz owners concerns. It sucks that having a discussion about a misleading ordinance would cause a residence or business owner to stall on a neighborhood beautification project, but such as life. As a past contractor I have always let the homeowner know that the work being performed required a permit, but I always left that choice up to the individual or business purchasing my services. It’s called “the cost of doing business”. Usually they proceed, but sometimes they don’t. But in my experience slow and steady wins the race. Thanks to all of you for keeping this dialogue open.

  28. Langley on July 31, 2011 11:14 pm

    Although I have made a solemn vow to never participate in online discussions, as the ability to post anonymously creates a completely un-level playing field, but this one happens to be too close to my front door and also greatly affects my livelihood on this street. All I can contribute to this conversation is my own personal feelings and experiences as an artist on Cherokee St. I understand the motivations that both sides of this discussion represent. On one side, we must expose unjust laws to rectify them, and on the other side, this presentation has single-handedly resulted in a Cherokee Street (approved) art moratorium. Or at the very least, instilled a fear of continuing to operate in the same free manner that has made Cherokee Street an incredible place to operate as an artist.

    From an artist’s perspective, nothing could be more unfortunate. Business as usual (prior to this post) on Cherokee Street was an artist’s utopia. Look at the number of street works that are present. No one has faced any of the aforementioned penalties, or any punishment resembling them in any way.

    I am, of course, for the revision of laws that are outdated or unjust. With one GIANT disclaimer: Provided those laws are being enforced and are resulting in the unfair treatment of anyone. I have seen absolutely no evidence that indicates that this particular ‘graffiti’ law has ever been even a remote factor on Cherokee St. In fact, I applaud the city for their handling of these matters and their willingness to examine and consider each situation independently up to this point. No one, not one single individual, that I have spoken with was even aware that the law contained such severities. That includes property owners and artists alike. So if no one was even aware of the law, and its outrageous penalties, that has to mean that this bill was not in play. So, although the written law obviously is unjust and a direct violation of our freedom of speech, that is ALL that it was before now: an unjust law sitting dormant. This fact renders the above law completely irrelevant in the discussion of Cherokee St public art works. Until now.

    I feel that if our present situation had been accurately assessed, only a bit of foresight should have easily revealed that this discussion was completely unnecessary and that this type of ‘showdown approach’ could only serve to damage the lines of communication created by those actually involved in presenting public works on Cherokee St. This is a classic case of what should have been ‘let sleeping dogs lie’. Things were working beautifully prior to this discussion. NOTHING needed to change. Cherokee St has been forging a working relationship with the city through an ongoing dialogue in numerous separate instances. Then we are presented, out of nowhere, the alternative tactics revealed here: The public posting of never-enforced penalties in a way that is, literally, pure sensationalism to set up the ‘us versus them’ scenario. That type of activity can only serve to set our cause back.

    Every single issue that the city has had with property owners (which I am aware of) in relation to these public works has been solved civilly and personally through face-to-face discussions. There was no need to highlight this law and create a scenario which will inherently create tension and, undoubtedly, result in a much more limited range of existence.

    I can only hope that in the future, before posting publicly and acting on singular desires, posters will choose to discuss matters with as many of those directly involved in the matter as possible to determine the most suitable course of action based on consensus. I have talked to many people upon the release of this post. I have yet to find anyone that agrees with this method as being the most productive course of action.

    I would have much rather had our discussion of these issues outside of the public realm. I find it quite unfortunate that possibility was never presented.

    Thank you.

    …and REASONABLE: I must always consider suspect those who deny that which they have not even been accused of. (1:24 p.m.)

  29. dylan on August 1, 2011 5:13 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with Langley’s comments.

    To add a little more background:

    The grafitti law is confusing and vague on a few points. It deserves to be improved in the future. But I interpret that it has nothing to do with murals or other owner-authorized public art.

    Reasonable – There is no city permitting process for public art. Owners are free to do what they want with their property, so long as they don’t break historic district rules (doesn’t apply to Cherokee) or break the sign laws (another issue entirely).

    Since the “authorization” mentioned in the bill is never explained further, this term can only be understood in the ‘common sense’ way — i.e. grafitti is art that is not authorized by the owner of a building.

    This is totally separate from the issue of owner-authorized art (aka Murals), which are allowed under city law and federal law as a form of free speech.

    We can see these LEGAL murals throughout our beautiful city:
    – on the flood wall
    – on the building complex behind SLU hospital
    – the Edison Bros Building – http://bit.ly/pNn0Ga
    – throughout the Grove district – http://bit.ly/ayYhPl
    – on school buildings, etc

    There is no city permitting process for these; since the owner authorized them, they are protected by free speech.

    This legal reality was recently underlined by the Jim Roos Eminent Domain case – since Roos was not selling a product with his mural (i.e. making it a sign), it was free speech. http://bit.ly/pHA52s

    As mentioned, nobody has been prosecuted under the grafitti law, and business as usual was pretty good.

    However, as Juan has pointed out, the Grafitti law has been *threatened* to be used on a couple occasions. It does seem that some government officials have used the *threat* of the grafiiti law (and possibly the sign law too) in order to coerce property owners into abandoning art projects. This is shameful – but in these cases we need to call their bluff. The law is actually on our side in these scenarios.

    An owner can put whatever art they want on their walls. This has been proven time and again. Spread the word about this!

    I do agree that the law should be more clear, to stop rogue city officials from threatening its use arbitrarily. Specifically I would like to see 2 changes to this law:

    1) a clarification that the law does not apply to owner-authorized murals and art
    2) a process for owners to retroactively authorize street art that they like, even if they didn’t initially authorize it

    But in general I do not have a problem with this law. Only with the extra-legal threats, which we need to just ignore.

    On the plus side, this discussion has shown the diversity and passion of the Cherokee art community – yay us!

    But because this is an issue that rests on a legal interpretation, I do think we should have consulted with a lawyer before going public with the discussion. I think we can accomplish more by doing our homework, staying positive, and asking for support from our peers and neighbors before going public with issues.

    We’re a small community, we can work together to navigate these complicated government/legal systems.

    This law does not affect the STL art movement. I’ll be working with others to get an official legal clarification on this issue, but in the meantime I hope we can get back to business as usual.

    Lets move past any moratorium and keep rebuilding our city!

  30. Reasonable. on August 4, 2011 6:33 pm

    Dylan — was there or was there not a permit for the mural that was associated with the conference that visited cherokee street?

    Langley — I understand the ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ approach, and I agree with that somewhat. What bothered me was Peat’s attempt to silence someone who felt the need to speak out, because it prevented him from profiting.
    If the person who posted this felt the need to talk about the issue in a public way, then he has a right to (you know, free speech). Also, property owners may be afraid of the lack of clarity of the ordinance, and if they are, then perhaps the ordinance SHOULD be discussed in a public manner so that property owners can make a fully informed decision about commissioning a mural. I, personally, encourage property owners to proceed with Murals even though it may break a law. Make sense?
    Also, be as suspicious as you want, but I didn’t have anything to do with this post. Just a commenter who prefers to be anonymous. Also, the anonymity has less to do with the discussion than it does to do with our broken record friend, the Joker.

  31. dylan on August 4, 2011 6:46 pm

    My understanding is that the Stencil Wall received verbal permission from the alderman, but this permission was not actually needed. All that really mattered was the permission from the owner of the property, which we had.

    A careful reading of the law actually protects us here, and gives us ammunition to not ask for “permission” in the future.

    Similarly, the “Obama Mural” at the same spot a few years ago was legal as free speech – until a vandal added genuine graffiti on top of it. That was used as an excuse to call in Operation Brightside and paint over it, under ordinance 66934.

    (This property is kind of unique because the owner is not actively involved in the project or the politics. But he approved it, that’s all that matters.)

    Agreed that this stuff needs to be discussed. But since we all know each other can we just do it offline. cheers

  32. Reasonable. on August 4, 2011 7:03 pm

    I see.

    Well, like I said, the more murals/public art the better. But, I think it’s important to respect the concerns (and possible concerns) of the property owners, not just the rights of artists.

    The retroactive authorization would be great. The owner-authorization clarification is absolutely essential, though. I’m sure we can imagine a scenario where a certain artist or property owner is disliked by city authorities, and this law is used unfairly against them.

  33. Murals for Saint-Louistan on August 5, 2011 11:14 am

    Thank you for your comment.
    You say that the post should have never been published. It unnecessarily revives a dead law, making it more difficult to create public art in Cherokee Street. This “showdown approach” poisons the communication between the city, artists and property owners on the street. So far, “Every single issue that the city has had with property owners (which I [Langley] am aware of) in relation to these public works has been solved civilly and personally through face-to-face discussions.” This possibility has just been slashed.
    First of all, the post aims to criticize a law as it affects the whole city. It was posted in this forum because Cherokee has a very active artistic community. It would be great to have a private conversation about this with other artists on Cherokee, but the goal is to talk about this as it affects the whole city.
    Your central point is the fact that the law is dead. Unfortunately, that is not true. The stencil mural was slated to be erased citing this law. People got together and expressed their desire to keep it and things changed. Now, thanks to that effort, the Cherokee Station Business Association is charged with creating guidelines to authorize murals on Cherokee. But why should the CSBA have that power? Why should a quasi-governmental business body have an absolute say on what art goes up in the street? What about the residents? What about the artists themselves? What about the areas beyond the business district?
    Explaining the purpose of the law, Alderman Ortmann told a group of CSBA board members that he had removed a mural/sign reading “Art relieves social constipation”. On his eyes, the word “constipation” was distasteful and kept families away from moving to the neighborhood. There were no penalties involved since the property owner simply accepted the fact. This is an example in which these kinds of issues have been “solved civilly and personally through face-to-face discussions”. But this is definitely not what we want.
    The point of telling the story is not to bash Alderman Ortmann. It was pretty clear as he told the story that in applying the law to this mural he was acting with a genuine concern for the ward. After all, he also wants more people to move down here. However, it was also pretty clear that he is out of touch with a large and energetic part of this community. This is not surprising; Aldermen in St Louis are elected with a ridiculously low number of votes. Our refraining from discussing issues like this only isolates them more from us.
    But the isolation goes both ways. No one should be fearful that aldermen all over the city will now start applying the law left and right due to the fact that we had a public discussion about it. There is no moratorium on public art, and they are not bent on silencing people’s voices. Their concern is rather beautification and keeping happy the people that vote for them. That fear is only based on a caricature that can only result from the fact that we are out of touch too.
    Public discussion is a way of meeting our public officials half way. We need to talk and they need to hear from us; just a basic fact of representational democracy.

  34. Murals for Saint-Louistan on August 5, 2011 11:20 am

    It is very hard to read the ordinance in the way you propose to do it.
    The ordinance clearly says that “It is unlawful for any person to maintain graffiti that has been placed upon, or allow graffiti to remain upon, any surface WITHIN THAT PERSON’S CONTROL, POSSESSION OR OWNERSHIP”. But if a mark that is authorized by the owner is not considered graffiti, how is it possible for a property owner to willfully maintain graffiti illegally? It would seem that the owner’s mere intention to keep a mark on his/her walls will instantly make the mark something that is not graffiti.
    In other words, if you are right, the ordinance is self-contradictory.
    On the other hand, if the interpretation in the post is right, the ordinance is unconstitutional.
    Either way, the law cannot be enforced and everyone following this discussion can now call the bluff if they are threatened by this law.
    This gives us tranquility for the time being, but it needs to be changed in the near future. Laws that are unclear, messy, and highly punitive like this one should not be on the books at all. They encourage abuse, intimidation, arbitrary application and scare everyone to the point that nobody even wants to talk about it.
    I like the amendments that you propose. And Yes, let’s keep the murals going.

  35. dylan on August 5, 2011 4:07 pm

    My interpretation of the law is that a mark becomes “grafitti” at the time of creation, if it does not have authorization from the owner. These markings are against the law – even if the owner likes them. That’s what that clause refers to; nothing to do with owner-authorized art (murals).

    The ability to for a property owner to retroactively authorize “street art” would be a nice change, but to me it’s not the end of the world. In fact part of the magic of genuine street art is its temporary nature.

    It would seem to me that the actual purpose of the law is that it lets the city clean up grafitti-marked properties that are not being maintained by their owners – I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

    You have cited 2 cases where the law was perhaps used as part of a threat. But in these cases, the actual law was never invoked – if it was, then the property owner would have grounds for a lawsuit.

    But I don’t feel these threats indicate a problem with Ordinance 66934, rather they show a pattern of a certain city official trying to intimidate his constituents with no legal backing. Hopefully we can solve that problem at the ballot box in spring 2013.

  36. Langley on August 5, 2011 5:45 pm

    MFSL: You only reinforce my primary belief (that gathering perspectives and information, outside of one’s own, is vital when proceeding with major action on any particular topic) when you make uninformed statements such as the one you made below:

    “Unfortunately, that is not true. The stencil mural was slated to be erased citing this law. ”

    Your statement is completely inaccurate. The stencil mural was a TEMPORARY project from the beginning. Part of a mutually beneficial agreement that was worked out between, the city and the artist overseeing the mural.

    Anyone involved with this project could have told you that. The determined life of the mural had elapsed and it was then time for the mural to come down, and for Cherokee St to honor its part of the deal that was made with the city. It was at this time that parties stepped in that were not a part of the original agreement.

  37. Murals for Saint-Louistan on August 5, 2011 6:45 pm

    The city’s authority to enter into that agreement depends on the existence of the ordinance. The only way the city can authorize or not a project like that is if they have the authority to do so. That’s what the ordinance is doing.
    The way things should be is that owners can put any murals they want without having to ask for permission. There will be some reasonable restrictions having to do with historic preservation and zoning, but in general the property owner should be the last arbiter on the matter.

  38. the joker on August 9, 2011 8:43 pm

    And once again the discussion devolved into people fighting each other instead of the system. Moreover, the people are using an inordinate number of passive voice verbs in proportion to active voice verbs. I believe that we must all rise up and take action! passive voice verbs are the path to complacency and therefore oppression!
    We must band together and eliminate the passive voice. But friends, let’s not stop there. Let us not overlook the dangers of indefinite articles. They sneak into our sentences slowly clawing away at individuality. We must emphasize the absoluteness of our words, only ever using the definite article ‘the!’

  39. Chris Sabatino on August 20, 2011 12:28 pm

    WHO THE HELL IS “Reasonable”?????
    State your name.

  40. REASONABLE on August 23, 2011 12:56 pm



  41. Kristy Unruh on October 8, 2015 3:47 pm

    As someone who moved from here from Philadelphia I can say that public art/murals can impact a city in an awesome way. The mural arts program there has significantly increased the care and respect for Philly’s buildings and given communities and/or neighborhoods an opportunity to unite and share their unique identity. Participating in creating a mural is one of my most cherished memories of my time there. As a side benefit, income was made and city pride was increased by tours of the murals.

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