Let’s celebrate!  Ten years later Los Angeles is finally getting its murals back now that the new mural ordinance has been passed.  I am excited that LA’s walls will be covered once again but also curious (and a bit worried) how the registration fee and the 45-day waiting period will affect spontaneous murals and street art.  Or perhaps it won’t… Time will tell.

Below is The Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles’ (MCLA) Press Release about last week’s vote from the Council.


Image of MCLA’s latest mural restoration (painted by John Wehrle in 1984) on the 101 Freeway by restorer Willie Herrón III. Photo by Gil Ortiz. This is the 5th mural restored by MCLA on the 101 Freeway since 2011 to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Olympic Freeway Murals, 2014; Photo courtesy of MCLA

On Wednesday, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Los Angeles City Council passed a new mural ordinance for the city by a 13 to 2 vote, thus ending a decade during which Los Angeles enforced a mural ban on private property. A second reading and vote next week will complete the formal process of official passage. The ordinance provides for regulatory oversight of new murals, as well as official recognition of already existing murals.

The ban of the last decade was a product of a 2002 court nullification, on First Amendment grounds, of the City’s Comprehensive Sign Code of 1986. The new mural ordinance requires the registration of a mural with the Department of Cultural Affairs in order for it to enjoy full rights under the law.  This registration will include payment of a registration fee, completion of a form, and a 45-day waiting period to allow members of the public to review and comment on the mural as a matter of required procedure. Once installed, a mural may not be removed or altered for a minimum of two years except under particular circumstances.  

Under federal law (the Visual Artists’ Rights Act), an artist is entitled to at least 90 days notice before their mural may be altered or destroyed. California’s Artist Protection Act provides similar protections to fill any gaps left by the federal law.  The new ordinance does not supplant either of these laws.

As passed the law will apply to all properties of two or more units, therefore excluding, for the time being, single-family residences. Communities will be permitted to “opt in” to include single-family residences. The Council referred this provision back to the Planning Department, leaving open the possibility that residences will be included, and communities permitted instead to “opt out.”

The Mural Conservancy applauds the City Council for passing the ordinance and looks forward to Mayor Eric Garcetti signing it into law. The new regulations will provide muralists and their agents with many opportunities for a renaissance of mural creation. The visual environment of Los Angeles will benefit; the practice of artists and their representatives will benefit; local businesses will gain economically from cultural tourism. Most of all, Los Angeles’ cultural environment and historical legacy will benefit.  The Mural Conservancy’s primary mission is to help to protect and maintain our public murals, and far too many important murals have been lost unnecessarily during this last decade.  This new law will go a long way towards reducing this attrition.

MCLA Board President Bill Lasarow observes that, “This new law is an essential step towards L.A. reclaiming its lost reputation as the world’s mural capital.  Now the ball is in the court of our artists, who will demonstrate their commitment and their talent in coming years.  MCLA hopes to play a key role in documenting and maintaining murals, given our mission to support this legacy.”

Executive Director Isabel Rojas-Williams notes, “Our work is really only just starting. Without this ordinance murals were being destroyed but not replaced, so now there is hope for the future. We will be vitally interested in successful implementation of oversight by the Department of Cultural Affairs. And the issue of the right of home owners to commission murals remains on the table.”

The Mural Conservancy is available for information and perspective on the new mural ordinance.  

Phone: (213) 291-6900 / Email, [email protected]muralconservancy.org / Web, muralconservancy.org


  1. Thanks, Carlyn. I’m glad you close with a question. I can think of a few more:

    Given that commercial signage in Los Angeles is effectively unregulated, or, worse, is regulated to favor wealthy citizens, what does it mean that artists must first register to create, and that their murals will be regulated by Cultural Affairs?

    If culture is the accumulated thought and action of individuals in a society, then where in this plan is the space for experimentation by individual artists? I include among the possible experimental works spontaneous actions by taggers.

    Re: registration and waiting period: If one must ask for permission first, one will thus be aware that a governmental body and a community group are reviewing the work and judging its cultural value. Is this freedom of expression?

    What is the value of community groups to artistic output, really?

    Is there a fee for this registration? What does this mean to an artist who must already pay for materials? Doesn’t this function as a tax on art workers?

  2. Good news. Although the waiting period and “citizen” approval is code for censorship. Our land of liberty is full of filters. And when it comes to displaying “ARTE PURA” people get really shy. As my son Marek noted once. It’s the land of DON’T.
    I’m hoping to get my murals installed in Oct. here in Mexico City. The themes are The Revolution, Conquest, Narcos, La ligue cachonda with pre Colombian erotica. Think they would let me put that up on a wall?

  3. Such a great first step! Thanks for keeping us up-to-date!


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