City of Walla Walla Paints over Octopus Sign
After two and a half years of controversy and legal battles, the City of Walla Walla paints over the giant mural of an octopus above a downtown toy store this morning.
Most Walla Walla residents we spoke with today say they are sad to see the octopus mural go.
Many say the painting brightened up the downtown area.
But Walla Walla city officials have said for the past two and a half years that the painting violates the city's sign code, and today, it was time to take it down.
For more than 900 days, a giant painting of a purple octopus has stood tall above the Inland Octopus Toy Store in downtown Walla Walla.
But today, it's gone.
"I think it's kind of a shame. I don't really see how it was really a problem" said Jeffrey Ratliff, Walla Walla resident.
This morning around 6 AM, the city brought in two painters to cover up the 650 square foot mural - it took about 30 minutes.
According to the city's sign code, the painting was too large to stay up.
The toy store's owner Bob Catsiff, tried to fight the city's sign code, but lost, and last month, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would not hear the case.
The city then gave Catsiff a 30 day window to take the sign down, but he never did.
Yesterday, was day 30.
"It just simply didn't conform. It was never permitted, and it was just out of compliance. So at that point, you either throw out the sign code that this community invested quite a bit in developing originally, or you force it to come into compliance" said Nabiel Shawa, Walla Walla city manager.
A few Walla Walla residents agree with the city, but most say they're disappointed the painting is gone.
"It's a shame" said Bob Merten, Walla Walla resident.
"It's sad. We moved here about two years ago and that was like our first iconic moment was coming downtown and seeing that octopus" said Erica Kypreos, Walla Walla resident.
"It's a little bit obnoxious. It stands out in the wrong way, and it just kind of ruins the atmosphere of our town, I really think so" said Dale Peterson, Walla Walla resident.
We spoke with Catsiff over the phone today.
He tells us when he arrived at the store early this morning, he was not very surprised the mural was painted over.
He says even though this was a worst-case scenario, he knew this was a possibility, and he has been preparing for it.
Catsiff believes the city is singling him out through selective enforcement.
He says there are other signs and murals throughout the city, like a large Banner Bank sign and a mural at Heritage Park, that violate the sign code.
But city officials say those signs and murals have special permits and were approved by the city.
"We don't agree with it. Does that mean that there's perfect conformance with the sign code throughout every corner of this city? No, there probably isn't. But as the signs are brought to our attention, we address them" said Shawa.
Walla Walla residents say even though the building is a little less colorful, they still plan to shop at the Inland Octopus.
"It'll motivate us to come to the store more often. We've supported them in the two years that we've been around, and we will continue to support the store" said Connie Schultz, who liked the painting.
The city has been fining Catsiff $100 a day each day the painting stayed up and violated the city's sign code.
Catsiff has racked up a bill around $90,000.
Catsiff's attorney sent a letter to the city a few weeks ago regarding selective enforcement.
He says he is still waiting for a reply.