Shortly after the unveiling of pro-Heal the Bay graffiti art in front of a four-story Santa Monica home yesterday, the place was visited by the cops, then code enforcement.
The work, by West Coast legends Risk and Retna, is not legal, authorities say. They needed permits.
The idea behind the so-called Heal the Bay House was to make neighbors aware of the pro-ocean movement while making an abandoned house a little more palatable. Santa Monica police Sgt. Richard Lewis, however, tells us ...
... neighbors, apparently not happy with the artwork, called, an area neighborhood resource officer paid the place a visit, and city code enforcement got involved.
"He [the officer] went out there and discovered it was a vacant, unoccupied house with no permit," Lewis says. "Whatever they did needed to be permitted and it was not."
The artist Saber claims the project is "up to code."
The Heal the Bay House, with its scaffolding-supported panels that declare "RESTORE AND PROTECT THE WORLDS OCEANS" and "OCEANS AT RISK" was the brainchild of area local Adam Corlin, a Heal the Bay supporter who recently bought the place as a distressed and foreclosed-upon property. (We have a call into him).
The Santa Monica Daily Press says quotes code official Ron Takiguchi as threatening to order a complete take-down of the art.
One neighbor called it an "eyesore."
Corlin had planned to keep the artwork up until Sept. 17, when Heal the Bay celebrates the statewide Coastal Cleanup day.
Heal the Bay communications director Matthew King told us that the organization is happy with the art:
We think it's a powerful and beautiful way of reminding people of the value of the ocean. ... From Heal the Bay's point of view Santa Monica has a rich tradition of supporting public art and environmental awareness, and we're really hopefull the city and the homeowner can work something out and these panels car remain up.
You would think you can pretty much paint your home as you wish but, in this case, because it involves panels and scaffolding, Santa Monica might see it as illegal, commercial-type signage.
We also have a call into Takiguchi to see if we can get some clarification on this. Stay tuned.
You would also think that neighbors would prefer some museum-quality art (Risk and Retna both starred in MOCA's record-breaking "Art in the Streets" exhibition) over an abandoned eyesore with a homeless woman reportedly living on one floor.
But hey, this just ain't Santa Monica. It's north-side Santa Monica -- near the Brentwood Country Club.
Update: The house's owner, Adam Corlin, got back to us. He says the city did indeed cite him for -- get this -- having an unsafe structure on the property.
That unsafe structure?
The scaffolding and the art it holds up. Corlin argued that the scaffolding is designed to hold much more weight than that of the art and that he's never, in many years of building structures in Santa Monica, had his scaffolding inspected or cited. He said his structural engineer has pretty much signed off on the thing as safe.
Corlin says he did not get any permits to build the thing but, again, notes that he's never had to get a permit for scaffolding in the past. He also doubted whether the city would have approved it anyway.
He also argues that at Halloween many homes in the area feature temporary, unapproved structures such as haunted-house entryways and elaborate decorations that stay up for days.
The citation lays down the potential for $2,500 to $5,000 fines for each day he refuses to take down the "structure."
Corlin says, however, that a city official told him Monday was the day Santa Monica expected to see it come down. He said he couldn't do it safely any sooner anyway, but he's going to see if there's any way to keep it up longer or have it moved elsewhere.
Already, the homeowner says, a friend came forward and offered to pay the fines in order to keep the art up for another week.
The city, Corlin says, is threatening to take its case to the L.A. County District Attorney's office is the pieces aren't taken down Monday.
"I think they just used the build department as an excuse to get me to take this down," he said. "There's a double standard going on here. Somebody doesn't like the art or the message or the artists."
The homeowner says the scaffolding and art was build to be mobile and that he would like to see it displayed elsewhere.
He said he didn't think controversy would have erupted if the project did not contain street art:
"I feel I'm being squashed by the man."
Update No. 2: Corlin told us the art was staying up for now, at least until he hears back from city officials whom he says have failed to return his phone calls.
"I would love for them to come out here and give me any corrections they have in mind," he said. " ... I wish the city would work with me."
He also expressed dismay with our headline's use of the term "graffiti house:"
I really wish you would call this the graffiti house. It's unfortunate. I don't think this is graffiti. It's art. Retna is an artist. If you want to see a graffiti house the city should have come here when I purchased it.
Update No. 3: Corlin tells LA Weekly's Shelley Leopold the art is coming down Monday and that he planned this all along. The pieces were put up to celebrate Coastal Cleanup Day, which is Sunday.
-With reporting from Shelley Leopold.