The controversial Foster the People mural downtown is coming down, the office of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced today.
Despite claims by the pop band that it had necessary permits and that the artwork was legitimately produced, the mayor's office states what we reported previously: The piece is on a historic building that, under an agreement with the city, must maintain its appearance.
The mayor's office says its declaration today is a joint statement with the pop band and Capital Foresight, which owns the Santa Fe Lofts building on which the piece was painted:
… Since the Santa Fe Lofts is a State Historic Building that receives tax credits for maintaining original design features under the Mills Act, it is necessary to remove the mural to return this historic property to its original state.
There were other problems with the mural, too.
It was never registered with the city Department of Cultural Affairs, a necessary step in making such artwork legit. It was the subject of a Department of Building and Safety take-down order.
And there were serious concerns, expressed by the mayor's office and others, about the commercial nature of the piece:
It essentially constitutes the cover art for Foster the People's latest CD, and it was the centerpiece of a music video for the album's first single.
The man who helped to organize production of the mural is Daniel Lahoda, a controversial figure in the street art world who has had a history of blaming the city for wanting to take down murals when the stories were more complicated than that. In one previous case, it was the landlord who wanted to remove a mural.
This case is similar.
Lahoda has also helped to produce other works criticized as stretching the boundaries between marketing and art.
The city's mural rules were painstakingly created in order to ensure that advertisers don't find a loophole to create the kind of multistory “supergraphic” billboards that some say have created visual blight in L.A.
In this case the band made headlines by blaming the city for wanting to take down the mural, even though an initial decision to remove it last month was made jointly by Lahoda himself, a band leader, and the building's owner, according to an email, obtained by the Weekly, that was sent to the city by Capital Foresight:
We have come to an agreement with [the mural's organizer] Daniel Lahoda and [band co-founder] Mark Foster that the mural will be removed. Daniel is getting access to the lot as we speak … It will be removed by July 20th at the latest.
The band then stated that the mayor had stepped forward to save the piece, even though the mayor's office later said that wasn't true. It simply stepped in to prevent its immediate removal to find a longer-term solution, a spokesman said.
The joint statement today says that “the Mayor's Office, Foster the People, and Capital Foresight have committed to working together to create a new mural in another downtown location that all Angelenos can enjoy for many years.”