Creig P. Sherburne/Atascadero News •
This photo, taken from Palma Avenue between Traffic Way and Rosario Avenue, shows both murals on the walls of the ARTery, which must be painted over by July 20, unless an appeal is requested, then it will put off until after the appeal hearing in from of the planning commission.
ATASCADERO — After the city received several complaints and comments about the mural painted on the side of the ARTery in downtown Atascadero, the application for an administrative use permit was denied by the design review committee on Thursday.
The vote was 4-1 with Planning Commissioner Christian Cooper dissenting.
The owners of the art supply store had a large mural painted on the side of the business, the side that faces Palma Avenue, in May. Co-owner Bill Arkfeld said that he was aware of the need to get the permit, but the opportunity arose for a particular artist, Reilly Baker of Santa Cruz, to paint the mural on a Friday without a lot of advance notice because he happened to be traveling through the area. He is now traveling around Europe and will not be available for another six months.
Arkfeld said that he verified that after-the-fact permits for building are common.
“Alfredo [Castillo] clarified that after-the-fact permits were very common and usually accepted,” ARTery co-owner Bobbi Nunez said.
City Planner Alfredo Castillo said that the city first became aware of the mural on the building when staff received several complaints, including one anonymous email.
“After-the-fact [permits for] construction and a wall mural are two different things,” Castillo said in response to the city issuing after-the-fact permits. “The DRC denied the application because the size and location did not fit the neighborhood.”
The design review committee, made up of Mayor Bob Kelley, Councilwoman Roberta Fonzi, Planning Commissioner Chuck Ward, Cooper and member at-large Susan DeCarli, was asked to look at the size and location of the mural to decide whether or not to approve the AUP.
Arkfeld said that Community Development Director Warren Frace said the hearing was not about if or when he got the permit, but whether or not it should be issued.
“There were obviously some very strong feelings on us not following the rules,” Arkfeld said.
“They were just upset that we didn’t come to them and ask for a permit,” Nunez added.
Kelley, Fonzi and Ward all said that the fact that Arkfeld did not go through the process was one reason for the denial. The other was that they did feel it fit into the downtown neighborhood.
“The didn’t follow the process,” Kelley said. “They fully admitted that they didn’t follow the process. Sometimes when you don’t follow the process there are different layers of consequences.”
“I feel strongly that no one deserves special treatment,” Fonzi added. “We have rules about murals and those rules were not followed. In my mind, this is kind of like Mr. [Kelly] Gearhart coming in and clear-cutting a bunch of trees and asking for forgiveness afterward. It’s no so much the mural.”
Ward agreed that the fact that the owners did not follow the rules played a part in his decision; he cited how it fits into its neighborhood as a big part of what aided his decision.
“No. 1 is the fact that [many] people who have businesses in the area do not like it,” Ward said. “The other reason was that they charged ahead and did this without asking proper approval.”
Ward added that it sets a bad precedent.
Arkfeld said that there is no information on murals in the city’s municipal code. While there is a 50-square-foot limit on signs, Nunez said that their mural is not a sign.
“Nothing seems out of line,” Arkfeld said. “We didn’t think we were circumventing the process or doing anything out of line.”
Nunez said she told the artist, who made all of the mural except for the base lower of gray with spray paint, that it couldn’t be controversial and could not include words.
“I told him no wording because I didn’t want them to think it’s a sign,” Nunez said
Nunez said that DeCarli asked if the ARTery owners would be willing to submit a new mural for consideration.
“We’re willing to work to find a positive resolution,” Nunez said.
After the hearing, Arkfeld received a letter from the city informing him that he has 30 days from the hearing to paint over the mural, either returning it to its original color or painting it one of the approved downtown colors.
Arkfeld also has the option to appeal the committee’s decision, which would go before the planning commission. In order to appeal it, Arkfeld would have to submit an appeal letter and a $460 fee to the city by Friday, July 6.
“Just money alone will kill [the appeal],” Arkfeld said, but added that he and his family “don’t feel they got a fair hearing.”
In early 2010, the city council discussed murals when K-Man Cycle & Run owner Keith Schmidt had a mural of two bicycles painted on the side of his building without obtaining the correct permit. Schmidt said he knew that he had to get an AUP because the mural was considered an oversized sign. In 2010 Schmidt told the Atascadero News that he wanted the fee to be waived because his intent with the mural was to brighten the entrance to Atascadero.
At the Feb. 24, 2010, Atascadero City Council meeting, the council agreed that there should be a process in place to review murals
“There needs to be a process so it’s not abused and it’s not offensive,” Councilman Jerry Clay said at the 2010 meeting.
At the meeting, the council changed the cost to business owners for the AUP to be $0 from the $750 fee. Language was also added that the application would go to the city council if staff were uncomfortable with it.
“If anything we’ve had more people in our store since the [mural went up],” said Arkfeld and Nunez’s daughter, Zoe Arkfeld.
Nunez said that people have told her that they went to see the mural and then walked around the downtown and discovered businesses they didn’t know were there.
While not part of the main discussion, a second mural on the back part of the ARTery would also be part of the hearing. That mural will also have to be painted over. Nunez said that mural has been up for more than a year, but is not visible unless a person is in the parking lot behind the building or traveling the wrong way on Palma Avenue, which is a one-way street between Traffic Way and Rosario Avenue.
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For the complete article see the 06-27-2012 issue.
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