Artist seeks new home for controversial piece

As the deadline approaches for the removal of the installation at 6706 Avenida Mañana, which the City has ruled to be a code violation, artists Nasser Pirasteh and wife Zahra are hard at work finding a new home for the piece and hoping for an eleventh hour miracle.

“We’ve been in contact with area universities and other public institutions hoping that one of them would be willing to take the sculpture so we don’t have to tear it down,” Zahra told La Jolla Light. “Of the ones we’ve heard back from, most say it would take months or years to get everything in order (to relocate the work) and we only have a few weeks.”

Standing at 10 feet tall and weighing hundreds of pounds, challenges with moving the piece to a new spot include accessing it from the street and lifting it by crane or forklift, or maneuvering the other sculptures in the yard so it can be reached and moved via the driveway.

Zahra added they have not decided what they will do if a new home cannot be found by the deadline. The couple hopes to negotiate relocation costs with whomever is interested in the piece.

The Pirastehs have until Nov. 5 to move the piece from the Nautilus Street-facing yard, or face heavy fines. The piece was ruled an “unpermitted accessory structure in the front yard setback” by San Diego Code Enforcement Officer James Queenan on Aug. 15, and the notice was served over Labor Day weekend in early September.

The City ordered the Pirastehs to remove or move (from the front yard setback) the sculpture within 60 calendar days from when the notice was served. The couple must also pay City administrative costs of $1,143.57 and $5,000 in civil penalties. If the structure is not moved and the fines unpaid by the deadline, the couple will be assessed an additional $5,000.

The Pirastehs said they were first notified that they had constructed (what would later be deemed) an “unpermitted accessory structure” in March, and a hearing was held in June so the City and the Pirastehs could state their respective cases. Issues included failure to file for construction and building inspection permits, and improper encroachment into a yard. 

Before a ruling could be filed, the Pirastehs requested a second hearing to present what they believed to be new evidence. That meeting took place in July. Several community members were on hand in support of keeping the artwork in place. All said, Queenan ruled the work was still not in compliance and needed to be removed.

In the final ruling, Queenan reports, “Mr. Pirasteh’s sculpture is a structure as that term is defined … an expansive definition encompassing an edifice or building of any kind or any construction. Thus, the sculpture is a structure. … Further, Pirasteh’s sculpture does not look like a traditional sculpture; in fact, from the exterior, it looks like some type of building with drawings on the façade.”

Although the ruling was not what Nasser Pirasteh hoped for, he said the silver lining is that “people are talking about art.” 

“As an artist, I appreciate that people are talking about art, what it means, what it means to them,” he said. 

Nasser Pirasteh can be reached at (858) 603-7547 or nasserpirasteh.com

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