City of San Jose says BLM painting on Empire Street “unauthorized”

Bay Area

Black Lives Matter painting on Empire Street near Backesto Park in San Jose, Ca.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — The future of a “Black Lives Matter” painting in San Jose remains uncertain and is unclear at this point if the city plans to keep it.

A “Black Lives Matter” mural along Empire Street near Backesto Park was painted by demonstrators on Jul. 4 — who gathered in protest of the death of George Floyd and in solidarity with the family of Anthony Nuñez, who was killed by San Jose Police in 2016.

In the event, demonstrators painted “Black Lives Matter” along Empire Street — but the question now remains if the painting will stay since it was not authorized by the city of San Jose’s Department of Transportation.

On Monday, the Director of Transportation for the city of San Jose sent out a memorandum ruling the painting falls under a prohibition of Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) — along with both federal and state guidelines

“While the City affirms the message, as demonstrated by the June 30, 2020 Council resolution proclaiming Black Lives Matter, the specific painted message was unauthorized, as the group did not seek permit or approval from the City for its instillation,” said John Ristow, Director of Transportation for the city of San Jose.

“While the Black Lives Matter painted message on Empire Street does not meet the standard definition of a mural, it would also fall under the FHWA prohibition given that the message is attempting to communicate with road users, and is not an authorized roadway marking in both federal and state guidelines.”

According to the memo, various council offices have received requests from members of the public interested in painting other messages — including some requesting the “alternate” message be painted where the existing “Black Lives Matter” painting is located.

The painting has now been up more than a month and neighbors who spoke with KRON4 say they are supportive of painting and the overall bigger message behind it.

“I can speak for myself and my neighbors that I communicate with, we’re all totally for it,” said Bryce Lynch, who has been living in the neighborhood near Backesto Park for nearly 12 years.

“We all really believe strongly that what we’ve seen a lot in the news lately with how they treat minorities especially Black people, that something needs to be done,”

“I’m supportive of it.”

Currently, the city does not have a permit process or program for the installation of non-traffic related messages in the public right-of-way.

“Crafting this type of program would be complex and involce other City departments, including the Office of Cultural Affairs and the Attorney’s Office,” said Ristow.

“Therefore, exploring the potential development of a program for installation of painted message in the public right-of-way would need to be prioritized.”

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