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Mural at Patticakes Dessert Company Deemed County Code Violation

After complaints, the owner of the local bakery has been told he will need to remove or alter the mural.

County officials have notified a local bakery owner that a mural on the side of his shop is in violation of county code, and will need to be removed or substantially altered.

The mural is on the side of Patticakes Dessert Company at the corner of Allen Avenue and New York.  It depicts various pastries, desserts and a cup of coffee, which officials have told the owner constitutes an advertisement for the store.

That means that it arguably violates rules on what percent of the wall of a store can be used to advertise, said Mike McLellan, who owns the store along with his wife Phyllis.

He said he is very unhappy that the county has taken the action during a time when the economy is suffering.

"The county planner I spoke to was very condescending and not very nice," McLellan said. "It's a beautiful mural painted by a local artist, not a blight."

County planning officials have not yet returned a call requesting comment on the case.

McLellan said the letter he received from the county detailed two codes he violated that deal with limits on commercial signage (22.52.800 and 22.52.880).

The mural has been up on the side of the building for about six months, McLellan said.  He said that wall of his store, which faces Allen Avenue, used to get hit with graffiti and was generally not too appealing before he hired local artist Bill Madrid to paint it. 

County planners told him two local neighborhood residents had called to complain about it.

The letter the county sent said that by leaving it he could subject himself to a fine of more than $2000.  A county hearing on the issue would cost him $9000, McLellan said.

He added that he hopes that he won't have to change it. He is gathering petition signatures and plans to appeal to County Supervisor Michael Antonovich for help.

We hope to update this story with more information from the county so please check back for updates.

Jonathan Ball May 05, 2011 at 03:09 PM
I'd love to know exactly what the thinking was of the two whining, meddling, busybody malcontents (being charitable with the word "thinking".) I find it next to impossible to believe the two belly-achers actually know the applicable county ordinances, so that leads me to suspect they just don't like the mural, or maybe don't like murals period. So, then you have to wonder how the county inspectors translate the whiners' complaint into an actual code violation. In fact, when I spoke with Mike, the proprietor of Patticakes, about the citation yesterday, he told me the code sections listed in the citation are WRONG - they are not the applicable codes. I read the codes, and one of them addresses signage. The mural is not a sign - period. Mike told me the applicable code says that murals may not "depict" the business's products. However, I cannot find any reference to murals anywhere in Title 22 - Planning and Zoning, in the county code.
Dan Abendschein (Editor) May 05, 2011 at 03:20 PM
One more point, I think if I am not mistaken Eric was referring to the Altadena Community Standards District which was a vetted public process that led to most of the current rules. So by doing this, the people of Altadena asked the county to enforce these rules. We have a story that will run today on a new process of looking at those standards which may allow some of these rules to change.
Dena May 05, 2011 at 04:06 PM
I'll be stopping by to sign the petition. The mural is lovely. I start to wonder if these are the same "bitter" people who started the food truck controversy. Whenever people enjoy something, someone seems determined to stop them!
Pete Newlove May 05, 2011 at 04:23 PM
I'll stop by to sign the petition as well. I'm glad to see some community activism getting stirred up here!
J Bauer May 05, 2011 at 04:40 PM
I agree that the mural is lovely and there is no mention of the shop name which is true advertising. Aren't there many more important items to complain about then someone trying to beautify their business? Drive down any of our streets and all you will see are "for lease" signs on empty store fronts, I suppose that the residents who complained and the board are more interested in seeing those than a business trying to succeed in our community.
Lydee May 05, 2011 at 04:59 PM
I can't believe that people complained about the mural. That's so mean!
mister altadena May 05, 2011 at 05:33 PM
I see it as apples vs. oranges. Mural on Patticakes MAY depict products being sold inside = possible advertisement. Art on fence doesn't depict product being sold inside Monte Cedro. Plus, MC did have to pull down signs relating to Monte Cedro.....leaving just art. I'm in the camp that likes the mural. It's art in my eyes. Hey, Patticakes has 4 walls, mural's only on one wall. That's 25%! Will that work?
mister altadena May 05, 2011 at 05:36 PM
Welcome to the community you live in. Whiners winning!
Leslie Aitken May 05, 2011 at 05:46 PM
We need to elect Oscar the Grouch as our town mascot!!!!
dj May 05, 2011 at 06:21 PM
What a wonderful mural inviting the beginning of a day! The county should stand proud that its business owners are welcoming and inviting to its community and visitors. If I lived in CA I'd stand by those bricks like a tree hugger and not move when the "bad guys" began to disrupt this bit of creativity and happiness. Stupid CA rules/laws. Change it NOW! I see not ad for the business. I see a breath of welcome.
Dottie Burns May 05, 2011 at 10:42 PM
I only live a couple of blocks from Patty Cakes and I watched the painting as I drove by. Why is it that 2 people can rule the rest of us. I will go in and sign.
ed meyers May 05, 2011 at 11:40 PM
I believe only one complaint is needed to get a county inspector out. The bigger problem is that, if one or both of the codes cited was actually violated, that's the way it is. The county enforces the laws on the books. You're right that 2 shouldn't overrule 42,000+ residents. That's why it's the job of the community to redefine our standards and ask the county to enforce those new standards. We have a big job ahead of us.....
Dickinson May 06, 2011 at 01:26 AM
Yes, if they're in violation of a County Code then your complaints would be investigated and code violations enforced.
Dickinson May 06, 2011 at 02:03 AM
Really Tom, get a grip.....what Eric was saying was that....if you listen to all of the meetings and information from the County, there has to be a complaint from an Altadenan (this is the "we" to which he refers) before the county comes out....so bottom line is, and I've heard this said up above....we need to get the complainers to talk to someone from Altadena (the store owner, their town council rep, etc. ) BEFORE they go to the County. Once someone goes to the County AND the residence or business is in violation of the Code, then they have to come out and take appropriate action. Quite frankly, all of the businesses in Altadena would do well to read the county code on signs and banners and such BEFORE they decide to enhance their signage, building, programs, etc. And if the business is on Lake there is the Community Standards to look at. All can be found on the LA County website.
Dickinson May 06, 2011 at 02:08 AM
Oh my goodnesss...let's not perpetuate this misunderstanding....Eric is blameless in this. Let's all leave him alone....Eric is a community minded person with Altadena's best interest at heart. Rather than sit on blogs and complain, Eric took it on himself to build a community in the Presidents Streets where they all look out for each other and communicate. He also decided that he would take on the thankless job of managing the election this year. All who are attacking him on this in error need to take a page from his book and get involved, take some action to better the community like he has done....for all of you getting on the "Tom" bandwagon...need some cheese with that whine?
Sue Dadd May 06, 2011 at 03:44 PM
I find all this rather confusing. I don't see why the mural across the street is to code (it shows a cafe in a streetscape a la Van Gogh) and this jolly mural of exuberant cakes is not. There are no words in the Patticakes mural and it doesn't look like signage to me. If the wall had been painted two tone with coffee colored paint, would that be considered signage? I'm sad that one or two people in our community are able to override the opinions of the rest of us. If we want the commercial areas of Altadena to thrive, then vibrancy should be encouraged. I shall sign the petition today.
Bill Madrid May 07, 2011 at 02:32 PM
I would like to first thank all of you that have supported the mural at Patticakes. My wife were amazed at the number of petition signatures when we stopped by Patticakes last night. WeI have been uplifted by the heart-felt positive reaction to the mural, not only while I was in the process of painting it, but also with the recent LA County code issue. Mike McLellan and I have been talking about doing a mural project there for many years. I am a long time Altadena resident (of almost 30 years) and have always thought that wall surface was a great location for a beautifying painting that could enhance that corner of Altadena. I applaud Mike and his family for stepping up to pay my costs to paint the mural as I know, being a freelance artist myself, how hard it can be to come up with extra funds when you are an independent business owner. I view the Patticakes mural as a great example of a local resident artist working together with a local business owner to beautify the business location and enhance the community overall. I am proud to have used my talent to brighten that corner of Altadena and am thankful to Mike and his family for making that happen. I am hopeful the LA County powers that be will see the larger benefit of this mural to our community and not strictly adhere to regulations that should probably be reviewed and updated. Community beautification and enhancement should always prevail over stark codes and regulations.
Lori A. Webster May 07, 2011 at 04:27 PM
I feel badly that the beautiful mural at Patticakes was the subject of complaint, because this is the type of artwork I would like to see on our independent business' walls rather than the alternative of plastic or vinyl signage. This is why Scott and I resisted putting up those types of signs and had local artist Gary Thomas paint our faux windows on the front of our store instead. This is an example of how we can all help our local economy - paying our local artists to beautify our places of business, keeping our town unique, encouraging residents to shop locally and by keeping our money where our homes are. I believe that these type of art installations help increase pride in our town, which we need that so badly.....just don't understand why some people don't see the value in that, but am very pleased to see the support of Patticakes' mural.
Altamom May 09, 2011 at 02:06 AM
After we succeed in keeping the bright and inviting mural on Patticakes, can we then turn our efforts in removing the REAL eyesores on North Lake?
mister altadena May 09, 2011 at 02:52 AM
Since only 1 or 2 complaints are needed to get an inspector out, I'd suggest all those seeking "real" blight in town take it upon his/herself to seek out blight and call it in to the County. It's tough to know what code(s) the blight is violating (unless blight itself is a good enough reason to call). Even tougher is knowing what to call in....temporary sandwich signs? That doesn't cut it for me. Focus on "ugly" stuff....non operating/broken sign above Dutch Oven shop....huge billboard on Ventura/Lincoln (isn't that a bit low to the ground?)....the hole at Calveras/Lake (the green fencing is ripped - totally ugly, "Available" sign (too high?). ... Smoke shop on Lake (too many window signs or did they clean that up?) I'd caution that this is a slippery slope (i.e Monte Cedro). At some point, the community won't agree what's art and what's advertising and what's blight. Maybe a "blight" community mtg. should take place at the Comm. Ctr? Pick a day/time and bring your "blight about town" pictures to the meeting. We all take a vote on what's considered blight. Majority wins and then we call county. Hopefully, we'd be able to find if our blight is actually breaking a code; which is all the better! Just some thoughts.....
Lisa Hastings May 09, 2011 at 04:40 AM
Look at the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County and you will see pockets of depressed economies: areas with high concentrations of liquor stores, store front churches, billboards, vacant lots, and check cashing stores (El Monte, Palmdale, East Pasadena). The problem with county laws is that they encourage and allow this type of blight yet they prohibit trendy sandwich signs and tasteful/artful murals. This is the world of unincorporated Los Angeles County. Blah! When is Altadena going to incorporate?????
Holly Rundberg May 09, 2011 at 05:37 AM
mraltadena, My sentiments exactly, and what about the flames all over the Smoke Shop? Are they less of a promo for their product than Patticakes pastries mural?
Holly Rundberg May 09, 2011 at 05:47 AM
I wonder the same thing. The climate of opinion seems to be that Altadena residents would not want to pay the additional taxes that would be required. This would be a good agenda item for the Town Council. I would love to hear exactly how we could become incorporated. A number of the comments in various Patch articles ('No Town Center' comes to mind) over the past 6-8 months have said "let's become incorporated" but that is as far as it goes. Eventually we'll have to take that next step.
Jeff S May 09, 2011 at 02:37 PM
Bill Madrid and the McLellans, thank you for beautifying our neighborhood with your wonderful mural. I sometimes think we live in Whinerdena. My wife and I will drop by and sign the petition. This may, however, be a feel-good petition that is not useful in the absence of a hearing. The county inspector has no obligation to consider petitions or community opinions, and the hearing is probably a necessary step in this instance. The the cost of the hearing is significant. If we were to hold a fundraiser and if enough neighbors were to contribute small amounts toward the cost of that hearing, we could then submit the petition AND show up at the hearing en masse -- problem solved. An alternative: Fight fire with fire. As the law applies to advertisements picturing products sold in the business, Bill could modify the mural slightly (sorry, Bill) so that none of the pictured items are items exactly matching products offered or sold by Patticakes. For example, slightly modify the type of cake, muffin, etc. Instead of a cup of coffee, the steaming beverage could be champurrado. Etc.. If no actual Patticake products appear on the mural, you may have a shot at side-stepping the ordinance. Also note that "permanent memorial" signs are excluded from the ordinance -- the addition of a portrait of a notable figure from our history, such as Charles Lowe -- might do the trick. The law works in mysterious ways. You have our support! Jeff S
wynne Wilson May 09, 2011 at 05:02 PM
Where is the petition to save the mural? The mural is beautifully painted and it is a pleasure to view. I would like to sign it and offer my support. Altadena and its citizens must support our local businesses so they can be successful. It would be prudent of our Town Council and concerned citizens to act on this issue as it affects all of us. There are amendments to the County Codes in our "Altadena Standards". This is one of the ways to approach creating new by-laws and/or County Codes. Wynne Wilson
Altamom May 10, 2011 at 07:39 PM
Patticakes has the petition in their store.
madge May 10, 2011 at 09:26 PM
I suspect that the complainants are in a similar business and resented the competition?
Kathy May 11, 2011 at 04:37 PM
I would argue that without text naming the business and it's products, it is art, not advertising.
Kathy May 11, 2011 at 04:46 PM
Lisa Hastings is right on...as long as Altadena remains unincorporated, you all are subject to the rules and rulings of the county. Perhaps this is impetus to pursue city/town hood?
Carol Lachata May 11, 2011 at 06:42 PM
I will sign as well. Altadena cityhood, anyone?

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