Chris Brown appeals graffiti monsters citation, cites 1st Amendment
Scary monsters adorning the outside of singer Chris Brown’s Hollywood Hills home are his personal art and he isn’t about to give up his 1st Amendment right to expression because of a city citation, his attorney said.
Mark Geragos, the singer’s attorney, has filed an appeal with the city of Los Angeles over a citation he received after his neighbors complained about the 8-feet-tall neon figures with bulging eyes and fangs on the walls of his designer home.
The enforcement citation was issued last month over “unpermitted and excessive signage” on his home on leafy, narrow Rinconia Drive.
In the appeal, Geragos said that the work is art, not signage, and therefore does not require a permit, especially because it is a home, not a business.
”...The murals painted on the exterior of the structure are for the sole purpose of enhancing the architectural and aesthetic features of the residential property,” Geragos wrote.
Moreover, Geragos wrote that the “murals are the reflection of the homeowner’s aesthetic taste and a reflection of free speech and expression protected by the 1st Amendment...”
Brown’s personal artwork has unwittingly thrust him into one of L.A.'s longest-running civic debates. Although the city has a reputation for being the street mural capital of the world, much of that artwork has been done illicitly.
City ordinances make it illegal to create murals on the vast majority of private properties.
Geragos notes in the appeal that city building inspectors are not applying the law in “content neutral” ways as the courts require, but reacted to complaints. He cites a Times story, quoting Patti Negri, president of the Hollywood Dell Civic Assn., the local neighborhood group.
“There are lots of babies, lots of children, and they’re literally frightened. It’s like devils on the wall — big, scary eyes and big, scary teeth, and just the whole vibe is not what we’re used to,” she said.
Brown’s legal team says that kind of talk shows that the murals are being “targeted for their content” while the city heaps praise on other non-permitted murals and describes them as an “endangered species.”
Geragos says the city ordinances governing murals are also unconstitutionally vague.
As is required, Geragos sent the city a check for the potential fine while appealing.
Brown has long portrayed art as part of his work with an album titled “Graffiti” and he often posts images and videos of his work on social media. The street art medium features heavily in his music videos, clothing line and attire.
After neighbors recently told The Times that children in the area were scared of the monsters, Brown replied on Twitter: “There are scarier creatures on Harry Potter. Get a ... life!”
He added: "(I am) paint(ing) until my hands fall off.”
The case will now be reviewed by the Department of Building and Safety, but is likely to make its way to the courts.
In the past, other homeowners have buckled under city pressure to remove artwork and murals because of financial limitations and the prospect of growing fines. Initial fines of nearly $400 can quickly multiple as each month passes without removal.
Ironically, the city has been finalizing a new mural ordinance that would legalize the creation of street art in certain zones and types of property.
The view from Sacramento
For reporting and exclusive analysis from bureau chief John Myers, get our California Politics newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.