A controversial mural will get a second chance for approval.
The Atascadero city manager confirmed on July 10 that the Design Review Committee (DRC) will consider allowing the “Tree Mural” painted on the ARTery to continue to exist, pending review of proposed changes to the 600-square-foot image that currently covers the downtown-area shop’s west-facing wall.
The “Tree Mural” was painted for free over Memorial Day weekend when a traveling artist passed through town. The business owners never applied for a permit until after the city began receiving complaints. In June, the DRC decided the mural didn’t match the character of downtown because of its size and location. The content of the image is protected by the First Amendment and therefore never subject to review, according to city officials.
Joe Benson, who operates Envisions Gallery across the street, felt the mural flouted reasonable rules and processes. He told New Times he’s not opposed to murals in general, but thinks this one was done improperly.
“The fact is, there are many people who say it doesn’t fit the downtown character,” Benson said. “It’s oversized; it’s peeling; it’s amateurish.”
ARTery owners Bobbi Nunez and Bill Arkfeld were originally told to paint over the image or appeal the decision to the city Planning Commission, for a $460 fee. However, public outcry prompted city officials to work with the business to reach a compromise. DRC member Susan DeCarli has proposed trimming down the scale of the image and centering it on the wall.
“I felt the spreading foliage going to the edges of the wall made it look rambling and disorganized,” DeCarli told New Times. “I’m not suggesting chopping it off, but if it were applied in a way that’s neater and more centered, it would fit the downtown better.”
Nunez said she didn’t think she should have to change any of it, but to comply with the city’s technicalities, she’s submitting both sides, fix some peeling paint, and remove the wording on the lower right side.
“I’m hoping that they see that corrective action isn’t important,” Nunez said. “What matters is to develop clear rules for murals so we’re not all wading through these vague ordinances.”