A city councillor is urging city staff to waive a $250 fee that a property owner must pay when painting a mural on their home or business to cover graffiti.
Vision Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie pointed out at a July 24 meeting the city does not charge a fee to a property owner when simply repainting over graffiti with a single colour of paint.
But, Louie said, the $250 applies when it’s a mural.
“It seems odd to me that we would charge somebody to take off the graffiti that they are required to take off, or to paint over, and in the instance where they’re not painting a mural, that there be no charge to that,” Louie told council “So I’d ask staff to do a bit of exploration on whether or not there’s a possibility to waive that fee in those circumstances when, in fact, what they’re doing is some public service to eliminate the graffiti.”
The fee is for a development permit, which covers administrative costs, according to Barb Floden, the city’s manager of communications. Murals are considered public art and therefore area residents and businesses must be consulted before one can be painted on a building, Floden said in her email to the Courier.
“The development permit process also ensures public artworks adhere to our city mural guidelines, which does not permit signage, advertising or religious/offensive content in the image,” Floden said.
City staff responsible for public art, sign permits, building permits and heritage properties also review the proposed mural before deciding whether the property owner can proceed with the project.
“Development services’ permit application process ensures that a meaningful community consultation is conducted and any objections/issues are addressed prior to the installation of the artwork,” Floden added.
Deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston told council charging the $250 fee for a mural seems inconsistent with the city’s goals of removing graffiti. He said he planned to investigate Louie’s concerns.
The city is responsible for removing graffiti in public places but it is the property owner’s responsibility to remove graffiti on private property. Under the city’s graffiti bylaw, a property owner is required to remove graffiti within 10 days of being served a notice from the city.
If the graffiti remains, the city will remove it and bill the property owner for the work. If the owner doesn’t pay the city for the work, the city will initiate legal action or add the cost to the owner’s property tax bill. The minimum fine for anyone caught writing graffiti is $500.
Hundreds of murals approved by the city between 2003 and 2010 can be viewed on the city’s website.