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first_img• Photo Gallery: Bob Downey & Sons’ Paint Shop WHITTIER – A local businessman said graffiti and vandalism have cost him more than $40,000 on abatement and security measures over the past five years. Bill Downey, owner of Bob Downey and Sons’ West Whittier Paint Co., said he’s spent that long removing graffiti, installing security cameras and replacing many damaged windows at his business. Vandals have smashed in, etched on and even shot at his storefront windows, he added. Two years ago, Downey tried a new approach – art. “They seem to respect artwork. Anything we put murals on they wouldn’t touch,” he said, pointing to the decorative murals that now cover his shop windows. “It’s \ not gone 100 percent, but it’s slowed down by 85 percent, and it’s getting a lot better,” he said. Now Downey, 62, finds himself in another battle. Los Angeles County officials have told him the window murals are prohibited, and they’ve given him until the end of this month to remove the art. “Basic county code says that windows can’t be covered by more than 25 percent,” said Pat Hachiya, a planner with the county code enforcement unit. “It’s something that’s been in code for a long time.” According to a county ordinance, temporary window signs cannot cover one- quarter of any single window or of adjoining windows on the same frontage. Hachiya said she’s never heard of window murals. “The concept’s still the same, whether it’s temporary or permanent signage,” added Oscar Gomez, who also works with the county’s zoning ordinances. “It’s a safety issue.” Johnny Dominguez, a West Whittier Paint employee, believes the ordinance should have a gray area. “Maybe they ought to rewrite the law, or rethink the law a little bit,” he said. Dominguez, 79, is quite familiar with the problems of local taggers – he’s the one who cleans up the graffiti at Downey’s shop. He argued that the murals are the only things that have kept taggers and other vandals from ruining Downey’s business. Ruth Keniston, who lives behind West Whittier Paint, said she also appreciates the window murals. “They didn’t do it in a crappy way. They did it in a beautiful way. And I think that should count for something,” Keniston, 41, said. Downey said he intends to address his concerns to the county. He’s gathering paperwork to show the impact of the murals on his abatement efforts. If the county rejects his appeal, Downey said he’ll be forced to board up and stucco his windows to match the rest of his building. But he’s not enthused about that option. “You finally find something that works and kids respect it,” he said. “You don’t think you’re going to fight your own government on it.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3024160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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