Octopus mural covered

A city-contracted firm covered the 550-square-foot mural this morning.


WALLA WALLA — The octopus is no more.

A painting firm contracted by the city of Walla Walla blanketed the 550-square-foot mural on the facade of Inland Octopus with a terra cotta earth tone as the sun was coming up this morning.

For the city, the 20-or-so-minute paint job was an end to the 21/2-year effort to bring the mural into compliance with the municipal sign code.

“The fight is over,” city attorney Tim Donaldson said this morning.

However, Inland Octopus toy store owner Bob Catsiff wasn’t ready to concede.

“I’m not going to say it’s over or it’s not over,” he said.

Catsiff found out the giant painting of the octopus peeking over a castle wall with a rainbow overhead had been covered through an online post from the Union-Bulletin this morning. Around 7 a.m. he went to see for himself.

In a sidewalk conversation across from his Main Street business he said he wasn’t completely surprised by the city’s move but was disappointed that he hadn’t received a response to a letter he had sent to Donaldson earlier this week. The letter raised Catsiff’s concerns over selective enforcement of the sign code. Catsiff said he sent it in an effort to make contact and work with the city.

But officials had another way of looking at the letter — as a deviation of the overriding violation upheld in numerous court decisions.

“We do enforce our sign code,” City Manager Nabiel Shawa said. “We see this is an attempt to deflect public attention away from the core issue.”

Donaldson said examples of other signs not in compliance provided by Catsiff — such as Banner Bank’s downtown sign — are permitted, grandfathered or have been otherwise approved.

“It’s like the guy who argues that he got a speeding ticket by saying you didn’t get the 50 other speeding drivers who went by,” Donaldson said. “It was a major violation on Main Street after he was issued a (document) that told him he had to get permits.”

Furthermore, Donaldson said, the issue of selective enforcement was addressed in court and not considered an issue.

The mural was painted at Catsiff’s leased toy store, 7 E. Main St., over the Labor Day weekend in 2010. Catsiff did not have permits or approval, and was ordered to remove it or bring it into compliance with the city’s sign code. The city also ordered a $100-a-day fine, starting Oct. 14, for every day the mural remained.

Donaldson said this morning those penalties total around $88,500. With the $1,525 quoted by the paint company, fines will be around $90,000. When he receives an invoice from the paint company Donaldson said he will send the final bill to Catsiff’s attorney. Collection will be handled through the city’s finance department, he said.

Catsiff appealed the city’s action all the way up to the nation’s highest court. Last month the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his bid to review a Washington state Court of Appeals decision allowing the city to enforce its sign ordinance.

Consequently, the city said it intended to enforce a hearing examiner’s order that the mural be brought into compliance with size and height restrictions within 30 days.

Shawa said he had not received a copy of Catsiff’s letter though he had heard about it. He did not interpret it as an attempt to work together.

“It was not an offer to sit down and discuss how he would go about abating the mural,” Shawa said.

“It wasn’t our desire to have to abate the violation in this manner, but it’s also clear that Mr. Catsiff was not going to take the steps to doing so himself.”

Shawa said the city contracted with Kennewick’s Columbia Basin Painting, opting to contract with an out-of-town business rather than a local one.

“It seemed the prudent thing, rather than drawing fire on a local contractor,” he said.

The timing of the painting early in the morning was also deliberate. “It was in the interest of public safety and minimizing disruption to downtown business,” he said. “We also do night work for utilities for the same reasons downtown.”

As for the color choice — which was panned by many residents active on social networks this morning — was selected because the city code encourages earth tone colors. “It was something that would blend in,” Shawa said. Returning to the original white facade seemed too stark, he said.

In the court of public opinion, the mural had become a beloved piece of art to many local residents and visitors. Hundreds took to Facebook and Twitter this morning to express disappointment at the loss of the whimsical mural. Some said the decision to cover it was in conflict with the city’s Rand McNally designation two years ago as “America’s Friendliest Small Town.”

“We understand it’s an emotional issue with a core group of citizens,” Shawa said. He added that the development of the sign code was publicly inclusive with business and citizen involvement.

He said the painting could be revived to fit in with the city’s sign code.

“I think there’s a bit of confusion that it’s over the content,” he said. “He could go get the permit today and get the same sign reduced to the requirements for size and height.”



310746 says...

Handled badley by all involved, This will be looked at by new businesseses when considering our area for future expansion, Sad

Posted 28 March 2013, 12:53 p.m. Suggest removal

bradgreen says...

Walla Walla city government, you are biting the hand that feeds you!

Posted 28 March 2013, 1:21 p.m. Suggest removal

katijo says...

This makes me ill. With all of the bad things going on in town, it pains me that the city wasted valuable time and money on this. It could have and should have been handeled very differently by ALL involved. Permission PRIOR to the painting, some thought into what is really important, many many things could have been different.

Posted 28 March 2013, 1:52 p.m. Suggest removal

ImJustSayin says...

He can paint something new now. Something that everyone agrees on. If anything....paint some "windows" to flow with the adjacent buildings.

Posted 28 March 2013, 2:05 p.m. Suggest removal

pleasant says...

"loved by a core group of people" I think it is loved by MANY tax paying citizens that provide your salary Mr. City Manager. You are choosing to ignore them and only focus on the Wino Down Town. WW needs to quit crapping on the views and opinions on the blue collar hard working people of this town instead of focusing on tourists and winos!!!!!

Posted 28 March 2013, 2:17 p.m. Suggest removal

clarkfamily89 says...

I think Walla Walla should flood the Purple Octopus and support the owner. When ballots come out for elected officials show them no support. Somewhere something was lost in this community.

Posted 28 March 2013, 2:56 p.m. Suggest removal

mliberty26 says...

Hundreds also took to Facebook and Twitter to applaud the enforcement of the sign codes and the downtown architectural guidelines.,

Posted 28 March 2013, 3:08 p.m. Suggest removal

wwpcusa says...

For $1525, you'd think they would have done a better job at painting over the mural. The outline of the rainbow and octopus are evident through the new paint, and they totally missed the side edges and beneath the overhang where the previous paint is still showing. We hope the city doesn't consider this a job well done.

Posted 28 March 2013, 3:13 p.m. Suggest removal

jeffstrickler says...

Absolutely shameful. Mr. Shawa, Mr. Donaldson - if you think this is a simple case of enforcing sign code then you are buffoons. You are both invited over to my house to apologize to my kids for destroying one of their favorite scenes in this town. You owe Rand McNally an apology too for fooling them into believing this was a special, friendly small town. You've done material harm to the reputation of this community. Bob Catsiff went too far and didn't handle this well - I think we all agree on that - but to paint over this in this dark using an out-of-town crew? It shows that you don't have any interest in compromise or in listening to the will of the people. Democracy is supposed to be a public, open affair not cloak-and-dagger in the night.

Posted 28 March 2013, 3:16 p.m. Suggest removal

PeggyJoy says...

After all the hardware and money spent by the City of Walla Walla restoring and cleaning up the historical buildings, it really showed disrespect from the owner of the story to paint the huge gaudy octopus on the building. Just one HUGE eye sore.

Hopefully, the paint job is primer; and they plan to repaint the building a color, that will fit in with the other buildings downtown.

Posted 28 March 2013, 4:15 p.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

Maybe they could make it a Whine Color?

Posted 28 March 2013, 7:21 p.m. Suggest removal

barracuda says...

I went by the Mini mall in CP today.... There are open stores there.... Hmmmmm...

Posted 28 March 2013, 4:22 p.m. Suggest removal

mytwocents says...

City cowards sneaking in under the cover of night to badly paint over a beloved mural...
Well played a**holes well played

Posted 28 March 2013, 8:50 p.m. Suggest removal

thatrvguy says...

Inland Octopus should move to College Place. They seem to be more Business Friendly. Walla has managed to 'Monkey Wrench' a Lowes and Costco , while sitting on a Landfill that used to be a Mall!

Posted 28 March 2013, 8:57 p.m. Suggest removal

dukhuntr says...

I sure hope that Bob Castiff finds some of the most god awful ugly colors to paint the front of the building. I think it would be appropriate to paint the city of Walla Walla logo on the front and have some guy pissing on it.... The leadership here in Walla Walla has really got as screwed up and ignorant as all of the petty childish bickering we read about everyday with the U.S Senate and our Congressional clown show.

Posted 28 March 2013, 10:24 p.m. Suggest removal

ImJustSayin says...

Notice the pictures that scroll across the top of this website which promotes tourism:


Not once is that former atrocity shown. Take the hint.

Posted 29 March 2013, 11:19 a.m. Suggest removal

Scooter says...

This whole thing could have been avoided if the store's owner had elected to work with the City administrators rather than, in defiance and the "dark of night," moving forward with a design that had already been rejected by the City (before any paint went on the wall).It's quite possible, I think, that the owner could have painted exactly that same piece over his store (with the City's blessings) if he had simply been willing to negotiate with the City for some kind of exclusion from the sign ordinace as currently written. He knew, when it went up, that he was facing some substantial risk in ignoring the City's initial rejection of the "sign." I'm not sure, too, that he didn't get exactly what he was looking for . . . . a significant amount of "free" advertising that went national.Though I liked the painting, and wish it were still there, I think we can all agree that such a Code is in place for a reason. We certainly wouldn't want to see "Hot Poop" paint a big mural, based on its namesake, on the front of its downtown store.We all need to be reasonable and follow the rules. If we don't like those rules, then we should go through the legal processes available to us to try to change them.

Posted 30 March 2013, 3:18 p.m. Suggest removal

scottyr says...

The official line? "It's a violation of our sign code."
Those of you who can't accept the reason of law need to have a talk with your cry-baby inner self.

Posted 30 March 2013, 6:41 p.m. Suggest removal

dukhuntr says...

Hopefully, scottyr you are a business owner in the downtown historic district that will lose a significant amount of money. And then you can cry on your inner-self about your loss of income. I will continue to do everything possible to promote the boycott of the businesses in that area.

Posted 31 March 2013, 11:10 a.m. Suggest removal

ImJustSayin says...

Seriously? You think people came to downtown ONLY to see that crap painting?

Posted 2 April 2013, 6:10 p.m. Suggest removal

zerocat says...

City worries about a painting on a wall downtown when the Old Blue Moutain Mall is covered in graffiti and looks like a DUMP and they dont really do much about it. Shows all the politics now in walla walla that favors only the elite people with lots of cash.. NOW PAINT A GAY COUPLE GETTING MARRIED ON THAT WALL, AND I BET YOU IT WOULD BE A NIGHTMARE TO GET REMOVED.

Posted 1 April 2013, 1:13 p.m. Suggest removal

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