A downtown L.A. mural by noted artists Aryz and David Choe, the latter of whom is perhaps best known for painting murals for Facebook in exchange for stock options now worth millions, was painted over recently.
The piece at La Reyna Restaurant, 2000 E. Seventh St., was put up about a year ago but was taken down after the city pressured the property owner to do so, says Daniel Lahoda of the group LA Freewalls.
A neighbor complained that the mural was illegal, Lahoda says, and the city threatened the landowner fines of $1,500 and more:
The city couldn't confirm or deny this story. Dean Staron of the Department of Building and Safety never answered repeated requests for an interview. A rep for the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs said his department had nothing to do with it.
Lahoda says developers in the Arts District downtown have been complaining about several noted murals in the area. The complainants are saying the works are illegal, he says.
He argues that the murals, noncommercial, permitted by landlords, and produced before the city's new mural law went into effect, should be seen as legitimate. But, he says, many building owners don't want to put up the cash it takes to fight City Hall.
“It's the classic gentrification scenario,” he says. “Bring artists in, make the area nice, bring money in, get rid of the artists.”
The mural, produced in May of 2013, was painted over May 5, he says.
“I will say the work was one of the most appreciated and coveted murals in the Arts District,” Lahoda told us.
He acknowledges his controversial role in L.A.'s street art world. Lahoda has helped to put landowners and street artists together downtown. And he says he even cleans up murals when they're tagged with graffiti.
But he's been accused of being less than forthcoming in business deals. And the LAPD once put out an “information request” on him.
“I've never been arrested in my life or held accountable for many of the things mentioned in the crime alert,” he told us. “I've had a contentious relationship with the city for years. They're specifically attacking all the murals I produced. They're trying to remove the legacy I created.”
[Added at 12:49 p.m. on Tuesday]: Luke Zamperini of the city Department of Building and Safety says the owner of the building at 2000 E. Seventh St. was warned that the mural was not registered with the Department of Cultural Affairs.
He says if the mural was registered it could have been saved. Registration entails leaving an artwork untouched for two years in order to discourage people from using murals as a form of advertising and changing the content constantly to make money, Zamperini said.
It's possible the building's owner didn't want to pay the costs associated with registration, but he said those costs are “nominal.”
He said Building and Safety sent a notice of noncompliance to the owner after officials received a complaint. He said there are complaints about two other nearby murals but that, in those cases, property owners decided to register the pieces with Cultural Affairs, thus likely protecting them.
The owner of 2000 E. Seventh St. was under a 15 order to take the mural down, which was placed into effect April 25, Zamperini said. He confirmed the owner painted it over.