Panel Says Mural Can Be Painted Over

In a first-of-its-kind ruling for this artists' colony, the city's Design Review Board Thursday voted to allow Hotel Laguna's owner to paint over a mural painted in 1981 by the artist Wyland.

The mural, at the edge of the hotel's parking lot, was the first of 67 "Whaling Walls" that Wyland has since painted across the nation and in other countries. Because it was his first, Wyland has said the Laguna Beach mural is "sacred" to him and he will fight to keep it from being painted over. Bruce D. Praet, Wyland's attorney, said he expects Wyland to appeal the 4-to-1 decision to the City Council.

But landowner Richard Merritt said the mural does not blend with the hotel or with plans to expand the hotel in the future. Merritt leases the property to hotelier Claes Andersen, who asked the city for permission to repaint the wall a cream color to match the stately old hotel.

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