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Vibrant mural irks Atascadero 

Get rid of it. Paint over it. Make it go away. That’s the gist of a letter Bill Arkfeld recently received from the Atascadero Design Review Committee (DRC).

click to enlarge UN-PERMITTED EXPRESSION :  Officials found that this mural doesn’t fit the neighborhood character of downtown Atascadero. If the decision isn’t appealed by July 6, the ARTery will have to paint over it or face fines. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • UN-PERMITTED EXPRESSION : Officials found that this mural doesn’t fit the neighborhood character of downtown Atascadero. If the decision isn’t appealed by July 6, the ARTery will have to paint over it or face fines.

Arkfeld owns the ARTery, an art supply store on Traffic Way. Over Memorial Day Weekend, he’d jumped on the chance to get a visiting artist to cover one 600-square-foot wall with a swirling mass of color. Reilly Baker did the work for free. Arkfeld only had to supply the paint. It was too good an opportunity to turn down, despite the fact that Arkfeld had no time to obtain the necessary permits.

“We acted boldly, I suppose, but it wasn’t something we did lightly,” Arkfeld said.

He told New Times that he’d served on the board of directors for Atascadero Main Street and was influenced by the city’s policy of encouraging murals throughout the city. In 2010, the City Council decided to waive permit fees for wall art. Also, Arkfeld said he’d seen the city issue after-the-fact permits multiple times. He thought officials would understand and forgive his actions.

On June 6, the city received an anonymous e-mail that said the mural “looks like graffiti in downtown Los Angeles and does nothing to celebrate the history of our town.”

The e-mail instigated a formal review. A staff report urged the DRC to approve the mural and grant a permit, and on June 21 they met with Arkfeld and the mural’s detractors to settle the issue. The report said that matters of content were not to be discussed. The only concerns could be consistency with the General Plan, environmental impacts, and size.

The DRC voted 4-1 to deny the permit application based on its size and location.

“If it’s too big, then what’s OK?” Arkfeld said he asked the committee members. “They couldn’t answer the question. They accused us of being hostile.”

Arkfeld has 30 days to remove the mural or face fines. He (or anyone in the community, really) can appeal the decision to the city Planning Commission, but the paperwork has to be filed and the $460 fee paid by July 6.

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