Drivers on Laguna Canyon Road may have noticed that an Orange County landmark is missing.
The Laguna College of Art & Design mural that donned the side of the Laguna Canyon Winery is now a plain gray wall. The mural was painted over by the winery owner who apparently did not realize its significance.
The mural was one of six in the city designed and painted by LCAD students in 2003. It was the largest mural by the college and in Orange County, mural instructor Mia Tavonatti said.
"This person, without any thought, painted over something that the students put a lot of work into," Tavonatti said. "It's frustrating. In a town that makes its living off art … that's what brings people to that town and that's why that guy has a successful business."
The tenants had applied to have signage put on the mural wall, city officials said, but the application had been denied due to the wall's status as a public work of art.
City Cultural Arts Manager Siân Poeschl noticed the mural was gone on her drive down Laguna Canyon Road at the end of February.
Code Enforcement Officer Joe Trujillo said the property owner had made an agreement with the school and the city for the mural and in order for the mural to be removed, the agreement would have to be nullified.
After complaints were received, the city contacted the property owner, Steve Henry, who was not aware of the mural being removed.
"We helped support [the mural] with a little financial aid so it was a big surprise to us," Henry said.
He said he alerted the winery when they inquired about signage that anything to do with the mural would have to be taken up with the city and the college.
It's very clear in the lease agreement, he said, that the mural was public property as well as his.
Marlowe Huber, a co-owner of the Laguna Canyon Winery, said he painted over the mural.
He said that it was a misunderstanding and is hoping to move forward.
He is meeting with LCAD faculty and Henry to come up with a solution.
LCAD President Dennis Power believes the act was not malicious by the winery .
"We've had phone conversations with the winery owner and he's indicated to me that he thought it was not illegal or a problem to paint over something that is on private property," he said. "The city has a process if you want to remove public art. He claims he was not aware of it."
Power and Henry are working together to devise a plan for another mural, Power said.