Unapproved mural revisions to be reviewed

The sculptured metal mural unveiled in November on a wall of Hobie Sports is not the mural approved by the Arts Commission, according to Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl.

Poeschl, who spotted significant differences between the approved version and what went up on the wall, advised artist Randy Morgan that the changes must be submitted to the Arts Commission. An application is due to be filed on Wednesday and Poeschl plans to put it on the commission's Feb. 11 agenda.

"Per city code, murals in the downtown require Arts Commission approval," Poeschl said.

The commission will also determine whether the mural is really a sign.

"If the commission identifies it as a sign, it will go before the Planning Commission and have to conform to the city's sign ordinance," Poeschl said.

Hypothetically, the mural would have to be taken down if it exceeds the size limit in the ordinance, Poeschl said.

Accusations that the "Waterman's Wall" is a sign surfaced this month. Resident Roger Butow emailed the Arts Commission and city officials on Jan. 14 and spoke at the Jan. 15 City Council meeting, calling the mural a "billboard," rather than a unique work of art.

In a follow-up email dated Wednesday, Butow alleged that parts of the 40-foot-wide by 12-foot-high, low-relief, bronze sculpture were poured from some of the molds used for a mural installed on the Dana Point Hobie Sports.

Butow, who identifies himself as an environmental consultant, denied that his motive in going public with his accusation was that he was owed money for his service as the artist's representative from March through October of 2011.

"I told him in November of that year that I would go away if he just paid me the $3,000 he owed me," Butow said. "But he told police I was trying to extort money from him and I spent two hours proving that I was his at-will employee."

Butow said he solicited funding for the mural on behalf of Morgan.

The sculpture features surfers, skimboarders and stand-up paddleboarders that gave "Waterman's Wall" its name.

An estimated crowd of 200 attended the unveiling on Nov. 29, including some folks memorialized in the sculpture.

Laguna Beach businessman Mark Christie owns Hobie Sports, on which wall the mural was installed. Clayton Berryhill and others chipped in to fund it.

Calls to Christie, Morgan and Waterman's Wall's contact Greg Chastain were not returned by deadline.


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