Palm Springs passes mural ordinance, spells out approval process

Palm Springs passes mural ordinance, spells out approval process

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - The debate over public art in Palm Springs is finally over.  The city council voted 3-1 to allow murals within city limits.  The council approved an ordinance with some strict requirements for murals.  The decision comes after months of controversy and discussion.  The new ordinance spells out what a mural is and the steps to approval.  "The artistic class is very important in Palm Springs and we like to be on the cutting edge on everything and so we want to be able to catch up here," said Margo Wheeler, the director of planning for the city.  

The ordinance makes a clear distinction between signage and a mural.  it defines a mural as "a painting or artwork temporarily or permanently affixed to a building wall, freestanding wall, or fence, distinguished from signage in that it does not advertise a business, commercial endeavor, or product sold or offered on the site or off-site." 

The process requires the approval from both the city's planning commission for the location and from the arts commission for the content.  The council added a provision requiring consultation of the Architectural Advisory Committee.  Still, the council gets final say on which murals go up.  The council also struck a line from the ordinance restricting the height of the mural to 35 feet.  It also requires that murals be up for a minimum of two years.  Not every member feels the ordinance does enough.  "A maximum of five that are visible from Palm and Indian Canyon drive, and another five that are visible from elsewhere in the city," suggested council member Paul Lewin. 

The suggestion was not implemented and Lewin was the dissenting vote.  He said it did not mean he was against murals, it meant he felt more could be done to deal with future issues.  

The need for a process came to the city's attention when the mural went up at "Bar" in downtown.  With no rules in place, the city could neither give permission or remove the art.  It became a bigger issue when Planet Art Palm Springs put on a mural exhibition in April.  Artists from all over the country were invited to paint murals on four locations in the city.  The group was given the approval of the public arts commission, but the city halted the plans last minute.  "Extremely frustrating for me as an organizer, all of the planning that went into it," said Debra Mumm from Venus Studios, Planet Art Palm Springs.  "We really thought we were doing everything right." 

Now, with the city's support, Mumm says world renowned artists want to make Palm Springs their canvas. "Public support is so overwhelming for public art," said Mumm.  "They know it's good for the economy, they know it's good for the community." 

It's also good for some business owners who want to make sure Palm Springs stays unique and creative.  "To introduce new art, it's just positive," said Kimberleigh Funkey, the owner of Bar. "I think it's a positive all the way around and to bring more life into Palm Springs." 

Murals already in place like the one at Bar must still receive approval from the city. 

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