Not all public art is welcomed warmly in San Diego. Pamela Anderson of ArchitectureArt, a company of artists who create large-scale commissioned murals, is finding that out firsthand.
Despite getting necessary permission from the city, a mural that ArchitectureArt is painting on the east wall of Bootlegger bar and restaurant (804 Market St. in East Village) will most likely be shut down within a week.
The hand-painted mural, commissioned by Blue Moon Brewing Company, depicts an impressionist-style still life of a bar adorned with sliced oranges and golden pints of Blue Moon. It remains unfinished after the city's Development Services Department rescinded permit approvals.
"In the city of San Diego, there are thousands of murals that exist, none of which are permitted," Anderson says. "And, frankly, the city shouldn't be in the business of art police or censoring artistic expression."
Anderson says she was initially told in writing that a permit is not required to paint a mural, so she began working on the piece. However, when it was discovered that there would be Blue Moon branding on the mural, ArchitectureArt was asked to secure a permit. The permit was approved by five different staffers at the Development Services Department (DSD), Anderson claims.
"Each of those individuals independently drew the conclusion that the permit was in full compliance of the law," Anderson says. "As we're about to begin painting the label, the city does a flip-flop and reverses its approval. It's our understanding that certain individuals stepped in and overrode those approvals."
A DSD spokesperson was unavailable for comment before press time.
Anderson says that she, her team and East Village residents and business owners are petitioning "anyone with authority" who can help them save the mural, including the Mayor's office and City Council President Todd Gloria's office.
Katie Keach, Gloria's deputy chief of staff, confirms that Gloria was contacted by Anderson last Friday. She says a Gloria aide contacted the City Attorney's office and the neighborhood code compliance staff and found that the mural violates the city's sign ordinance.
"The signage element," Anderson counters, "constitutes less than 3 percent of the mural. This is beyond ridiculous.
'That wall will go back to being a boring blank façade that does nothing for the community," she says.
What Anderson does, says Trong Nguyen-Dinh, owner of The District sandwich shop and board member of the East Village Association, "beautifies the street and brings character to the East Village. First goal is to save that mural, and, in the future, we'd like her to paint more murals throughout East Village."