City Hearing on West Art District Mural Violations

UPDATE APRIL 11TH 6:15PM: Harrison Rai, Manager of West Art District, notified The Daily City by phone that the City of Orlando canceled the April 12th 9am public hearing. The City told them the hearing is postponed until May. The exact date of the hearing was not provided by the City. The Daily City will share the date and further information as it becomes available.

The City of Orlando is holding a public hearing about the code violations the group of buildings known as the West Art District is in violation of on April 12th at 9am at City Hall in Council Chambers. The public is invited.

Murals are allowed on the sides and back of buildings but not on the front according to City code. The front, sides back, everything is covered in murals at West Art District. 

City of Orlando spokesperson Cassandra Lafser said, "Code Enforcement Division was contacted by a neighbor of West Art District who expressed concern over the murals and their noncompliance with the City’s mural policy." 

"Code Enforcement responded to the citizen complaint and inspected the situation and found that these businesses were in violation of City code."

Lafser says they've made multiple attempts to reach the property owner with no luck. The attempts were made according to the city "with the goal of discussing opportunities and options that will allow for art to remain on these buildings."

"They put a notice on the door," says Harrison Rai, Manager of the property. "They want (the graffiti on the front) removed."

Rai went to City Hall with the owners of the building and spoke with Jason Burton. "He wants to work with me. They're really cool people and super nice." Burton told him to bring supporters to the hearing. 

Lafser said "We are hopeful that in partnership with the property owner, we will be able to work towards a solution."

"Look at all the murals all over the world. Look at Art Basel. People will stop here on their way to Art Basel. (The presence of the murals) brings the economy up in this area. It becomes an activity hub that people want to come to. We're three blocks from UCF."

He says now with the violations, he can't do the build-out of the property as planned. "I can't build (out) the building with the code enforcement. I can't get a certificate of occupancy because of the code violations." He feels however that the hearing will clear it all up. "It can clear it all up or they'll make me take down all the graffiti."

"This isn't just for us. This is for every business in orlando that wants murals. I've got people who've wanted murals on the front of their businesses who can't get them. It'll be a liberation of art essentially."

Lafser says the City of Orlando is "extremely supportive of public art, including murals, and the unique impact they have in our community, helping to create vibrant districts and supporting placemaking in our Main Streets."

In 2015, the City created a new, streamlined process to approve artistic murals and allow for this creative expression to expand in the City.

Below is an overview of our current mural policy process. Any mural not meeting these requirements may still be allowed but would require a sign permit.

Location in the City — The artistic mural must be located in a non-residential area that is designated as an activity center or mixed-use corridor inside a Main Street or Market Street that isn’t a historic district or be adjacent to a LYMMO or SunRail station.

Location on the Building — The artistic mural must be on either the sides or rear of the building.

Height of the Mural — The artistic mural can only take up a certain percentage of the wall depending on the height. No mural can be more than 60 feet tall.

Commercial Message and Text — The artistic mural can have a sponsor (text or logo) but can not take up more than 5% of the mural. Any non-commercial text, separate from the sponsorship, can also not take up more than 5% of the mural

Maintenance Standards — Prior to painting, the area must be properly cleaned and primed. If the mural is defaced, peels, fades or is not maintained it will need to be repaired or painted over within 30 days.

Approval Process — Artistic murals require a joint application of the property owner and artist to the City. The application includes the concept for the mural, size and location. The application must be submitted in advance of the mural being installed. Murals inside the Downtown DDB/CRA area will also require approval by Appearance Review Board staff.