Story Update: As of 1 p.m. Thursday, applicant Danny Salzhandler submitted a new banner application and it was approved by the city. At press time, Salzhandler was expected to remove the stickers from the Arts Alive banners the same day.
The along Coast Highway 101 will soon bear the portrait of
Houlihan’s image is currently covered with vinyl stickers—but in a 4 to 1 vote with Encinitas Deputy Mayor Kristin Gaspar opposed, City Council voted Wednesday to allow those stickers to be removed through the request of the applicant, Danny Salzhandler of the Artists’ 101 Colony.
The Artists’ 101 Colony puts the , and after from endometrial cancer, the group decided to honor her because she was a City Manager Gus Vina said Houlihan’s portrait was a political image and therefore did not comply with the city’s code about pubic banners—and though no permit application was ever formally denied, that feedback prompted Salzhandler to retract his original application and submit a new application with a banner that had Houlihan’s image covered.
Now that City Council has given the OK, Salzhandler can submit another application requesting that Houlihan’s image be revealed as originally intended and he is guaranteed an approval. During Wednesday’s meeting, Vina said that approval could be granted the same day Salzhandler submits his application.
Wednesday's vote was a victory for many of Houlihan’s supporters, including her widower Ian Thompson, who on the grounds of a First Amendment violation.
“The banner tribute is a directed toward a person who actively supported the arts in Encinitas—pure and simple,” he told Council. “It was never designed as a political message.”
Eight speakers echoed those thoughts, with some stating that even though they did not always agree with Houlihan’s viewpoints, they felt she deserved to be honored publically this way.
Gaspar said she agreed that Houlihan deserves to be honored and took no issue with her image on the banners, but said she could not support the motion because the process that the city has in place was not followed. She said under the city’s process, Salzhandler could have moved forward with his original application, which included Houlihan’s image—but instead he chose to withdraw it based on the City Manager’s feedback. Gaspar said that it was Council’s job to focus on whether or not the city’s current process was followed or not.
"As decision makers, oftentimes we have to strip the emotion out of decision making," Gaspar said. "We have to strip this issue down and recognize that a process was not followed."
Encinitas Councilwoman Teresa Barth said she felt the issue was not so black and white.
“There are times when process has to be superseded by compassion,” she said. “That’s was something Maggie always said: ‘There’s always time for compassion.’ There was no compassion shown in this process and that is what I find offensive. This is a person we’re talking about, not a process.”
Councilman Mark Muir, who made the motion to remove the stickers, said he considered Houlihan a friend and “likes the idea of honoring Maggie and doesn’t like the idea of going to court.” As part of his motion Muir also said the language of the city code should also be rewritten so it is not so vague, and so that it allows for more freedom of speech. As a result, no new banner applications will be accepted until that is done.
The other sides of the depict artwork by local artists, and are auctioned off every year to raise money for the group. The banners have been on display since February, and will remain on display until mid-May.