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Commission says no to mural regulations

OCEANSIDE — On July 11 the Planning Commission’s feedback to draft mural regulations was given a unanimous thumbs down.

Draft regulations shared by City Planner Jeff Hunt proposed an Arts Commission subcommittee of three would review and approve city murals on public and private property. The subcommittee would determine the quality of the art, location compatibility and acceptable expertise of the artist.

Murals would be judged on reflecting the character and history of the neighborhood, readability and scale, content and durability of materials.

The proposed process would entail a no-fee application by the business owner, which would be processed by the city Planning Department, and reviewed for approval by three Arts Commissioners. A photo of every completed mural would be posted on the city’s website.

Hunt said the catalyst for the approval process is to address a number of expressed concerns about city murals.

There was agreement from commissioners that murals should not include indecent or immoral images, but that’s were consensus stopped.

Commissioners questioned the limited input of three subcommittee members’ views of art in determining approval.

They discussed what due process there would be for murals ruled out by the subcommittee. They also questioned how the definition of a “mural” and “qualified artist” would be determined.

“Certain members of the Arts Commission have a very narrow view of art, everybody is going to see these murals,” Commissioner John Scrivener said.

Commissioners stated that they saw no need for regulations, and felt decisions on business beautification should be left up to the owner.

“It makes no sense to me. I don’t know who the ‘art Nazis’ are going to be,” Commissioner Dennis Martinek said.

There was agreement mural art should not be judged by a subcommittee or the public.

“Any artist does not want to create with 50 peoples’ opinions, you can’t design art by committee, if we had to vote on it I would say, (gesture, thumbs down),” Commission Chair Louise Balma said.

Examples of current murals that are liked by some and not others were brought up to point out that “good art” is a personal point of view. One example was murals painted on city trash cans by artist Jon Shepard. Most memorable is a beach dumpster painted to look like a giant treasure chest.

“The Arts Commission got involved and tried to stop it, but it was art and the public loved it, he was able to continue to do it until he passed away,” Commissioner Colleen Balch said. “My big concern is about giving three people authority, who may not have a broad spectrum of what art could be.”

Hunt will share commissioners’ comments with the Arts Commission.