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'Terminator' Mural Faces Termination

The city says the Cahuenga Pass ad for DVD and video release of a movie starring the governor-elect violates billboard law.

October 17, 2003|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles city prosecutors are looking to recall the governor-elect -- or, more precisely, a large advertising mural of Arnold Schwarzenegger that they say was put up illegally this week on the side of a building in the Cahuenga Pass.

The city attorney's office filed six misdemeanor criminal charges Thursday against Robert Lusk Davis, the owner of a building in the 3200 block of Cahuenga Boulevard West after a towering mural was painted on one wall of the structure to promote the upcoming DVD and video release of Schwarzenegger's latest film, "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines."

The movie advertisement, which was erected on behalf of Warner Bros., is estimated by building inspectors to measure 40 feet by 100 feet and is easily visible to motorists on the Hollywood Freeway. Schwarzenegger's head is three stories tall. The advertisement violates city planning rules that prohibit advertising murals.

"I told the attorney for Warner Bros. it reflects poorly on the governor-elect to be associated with something that is illegal," said Joan Luchs, president of the Cahuenga Pass Neighborhood Assn.

Schwarzenegger is not named in the criminal action. A spokesman for the governor-elect did not return calls for comment.

Los Angeles building inspectors received a complaint from Luchs last weekend, said Ruben Perez, assistant bureau chief of code enforcement in the Department of Building and Safety.

"We went out Monday morning and we verified it was a violation," Perez said. "It's considered a mural sign. It's an advertisement. There is a moratorium on these kinds of signs in the city."

Such signs are banned by an ordinance that protects the Cahuenga Pass from visual blight because it is a scenic corridor.

In addition to city officials' order that the mural be painted over, the criminal complaint alleges two counts of installing an unapproved mural sign without the proper permit, two counts of an unapproved mural sign in violation of the city's sign ordinance and two counts of failing to comply with a Department of Building and Safety order. Each count carries penalties of as long as six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Davis, the building's owner, was given a permit by the city Department of Cultural Affairs in 1995, as part of the city art mural project, to install a painting of a dinosaur that appeared to be breaking through the building, City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo said.

But in March the dinosaur was replaced by a large advertising mural for "Shrek 4-D," an amusement park attraction, which drew a city building citation for being an advertisement erected without a permit.

Davis, an executive with Davis/Glick Productions, appealed an order to take that mural down, but the Board of Building and Safety Commissioners denied the appeal on Aug. 5.

This week, building inspectors saw Schwarzenegger's face where Shrek's had been.

Davis, who is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court on the new charges, said Thursday that he would fight the criminal complaint and seek a court order to protect the mural.

"I think it would be understating" to call the complaint unfair, he said. "We believe we are now, and always have been, properly permitted."

The criminal charges came on the same day that Mayor James K. Hahn appeared live on CNN and told a worldwide audience that he looked forward to putting aside past differences over the recall and working cooperatively with Schwarzenegger as a member of his gubernatorial transition committee.

Asked in the CNN interview about the recall, Hahn said, "As a Democrat, I thought that this was not a fair way to go. It is, however, what happened. Arnold Schwarzenegger is our governor. I'm going to do everything I can to support him."

Mayoral spokeswoman Julie Wong said Hahn had "no concern" that the sign-enforcement action might send a message counter to the mayor's pledge to cooperate with Schwarzenegger.

A spokesman for Delgadillo, a Democrat who opposed the recall, denied that politics had played a role in the action.

"This has everything to do with an illegal advertisement put on a building," said Delgadillo's spokesman, Eric Moses.

Other city officials, including Councilman Jack Weiss, couldn't resist a jab at the governor-elect.

"I guess he learned something on the campaign trail from one of his opponents -- Angelyne," Weiss quipped, referring to the actress and recall election candidate whose picture has been a fixture on city billboards for years.

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