ENCINITAS — A few residents urged City Council on April 27 to grant amnesty to a surfing Madonna mosaic secretly installed under a railroad trestle along one of the town’s busiest roadways. The speakers requested that the piece of art be left alone to adorn the city’s main entrance.
While the council is not allowed to address speakers’ questions during the session, city officials have said that the mural must be removed and wondered how much damage will be done to the existing structure in the process.
“It fits the definition of graffiti,” said Richard Phillips, assistant city manager. The city’s anti-graffiti ordinance is broad enough to include more than just someone spray-painting a wall. Rather, it is written to cover everything from advertising stickers to messages scratched into surfaces, he added.
The eclectic mosaic, which features Our Lady of Guadalupe on a surfboard with the words “Save the Ocean,” is attached to a concrete structure under the railroad bridge that crosses Encinitas Boulevard just west of Vulcan Avenue.
Several people asked the council to let it remain in place for at least 90 days and urged the city to grant amnesty to the mosaic’s creators if they step forward and admit that they made it. City officials said they were considering whether to file a complaint with law enforcement and seek removal costs from the artist or artists.
“As vandals go, we are dealing with a highly evolved species here,” Leucadia resident Kathleen Lees said. She said she considered the mosaic to be lovely and beautifully installed. The 10-foot square stained-glass mosaic of a surfing Madonna mysteriously appeared under the downtown train bridge last week.
Mike Clark, an Encinitas resident, offered to assist the city with preserving the “first-rate” art. He told city officials that if they would allow the mosaic to go through the city’s regular public art review process in the next 90 days, he personally would put up Plexiglass to protect it.
The city and the North County Transit District, which is the government agency that owns the bridge, have determined that the mosaic is within an area that the city controls.
Phillips emphasized that the city has a standard public art review process in which the city’s Arts Commission vets proposals. But some residents did not know the origin of the art and were unconcerned about its lack of confirmation by the city. “I think that anyone who spent this much time and energy and made such a beautiful piece of art for everyone to enjoy should be thanked, not demonized,” said Paul Francis, an Escondido resident who came to Encinitas specifically to view the mural. “I think the city should let this one go (and keep it in place).”
Officials are meeting with the city attorney early next week to determine how best to proceed.