Hernandez, Sarnoff present dueling mural laws
By Risa Polansky
Miami residents and visitors may soon see fewer mural advertisements blanketing the sides of buildings in the city's urban core.
The question is, how many?
Nine months after Miami-Dade County passed its own law, today (2/14) marks a showdown between two City of Miami ordinances governing the use of the signs.
One, created by anti-murals crusader Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, would allow 15 murals in a limited area of downtown.
The other, crafted by city administrators, would permit 35, and in a larger area.
Both call for lotteries to determine who gets the sure-to-be-coveted permits.
Neither requires a higher daily fine for illegal murals than the $1,000 already levied by the county, though both set hefty monthly permitting fees: Mr. Sarnoff's at $10,000 in most areas, the administration's at $8,000.
Commissioners deferred Mr. Sarnoff's stringent proposal in July at the request of the administration, which said the ordinance needed further review.
The plan was to meet with Mr. Sarnoff to fashion a compromised ordinance.
Eight meetings later, two pieces of legislation appear on the agenda, the commissioner said, though he felt all signs had pointed to an agreement during the numerous discussions.
"I'm disappointed after spending so much time with the administration," Mr. Sarnoff said, calling today's face-off the "first time the administration has really challenged me like this."
Calls and e-mails to City Manager Pete Hernandez and staff, whose office is sponsoring the administration's ordinance, were not returned.
Mr. Sarnoff blamed the influence of murale lobbyists for city staffers' apparent change of heart, saying outdoor advertising proponents have their "hooks deeply in the administration."
In July Mr. Hernandez and the city's senior director of building, planning and zoning both acknowledged meeting with industry players.
Mr. Hernandez said at the time that discussing the ordinance with industry representatives did not necessarily mean the city would "follow what they want and do it to their benefit. It has to be an ordinance that first of all protects the city, but we should also be listening to the industry."
As the murals dispute has been left hanging since the summer, so have the murals themselves.
Because the city has yet to put in place a permitting system, all of the large, colorful advertisements decorating — some say desecrating — downtown are illegal.
Miami-Dade County has in the meantime been citing the signs for violating its own ordinance, passed in May.
The law allows 45 murals downtown, but leaves it up to the city to dole out the 45 permits.
Until it does, all murals are illegal.
The city's code does not include the word "murals," so code enforcement staff has been citing the signs under laws prohibiting banners and certain types of outdoor advertising.