Nasser Pirasteh sculpture to come down this week

After an unsuccessful attempt on Oct. 29 to move the 10-foot, multi-ton installation in his yard at 6706 Avenida Mañana out of the front setback, artist Nasser Pirasteh announced the piece will have to be professionally dismantled sometime this week. 

His work, titled “In-Out,” was ruled an “unpermitted accessory structure in the front yard setback” by the City of San Diego Department of Code Enforcement in September, and ordered to be moved or demolished. Pirasteh quickly reached out to area institutions and universities to see if it could be relocated. Of those that responded, several said it would take months to carry out the move. 

So Pirasteh, a handful of supporters and a construction crew spent the better part of Saturday trying to move the installation away from the front yard setback, so it would be in compliance with City code, and avoid further fines. Pirasteh must pay the City administrative costs of $1,143.57 for the violation and civil penalties of $5,000. He would be subject to an additional $5,000 if the structure is not moved by the City-set Nov. 5 deadline. 

In preparation for the move, the artist reinforced the inside of the piece with steel bars to stabilize it. Before lifting the piece from the ground, a crew sawed it equatorially to separate it from its base.

With a Bobcat mover parked nearby ready to lift and relocate the piece to another spot on the property – which was measured three times to make sure it is outside the 20-foot setback – the crew spent several hours attempting to dislodge the piece. They were only able to move it a few feet. Total construction costs for the preparation and the day’s work reached nearly $20,000.

At the time, Pirasteh and his wife, Zari, said the feeling was “bittersweet” because they got to keep the piece on their property, but were saddened by the cost and the legal battle that led to that point. But the “sweet” was short lived. 

By the end of the day, the crew said it could not move the piece as planned, and the artist determined it would have to come down. The demolition would bring closure to more than 10 months’ worth of litigation that was spurred by a complaint the City received. 

Pirasteh was notified in March that his installation — which he contends is not a “structure” but a “sculpture” and as art is not subject to Municipal Code — was in violation. Two hearings were held for both the artist and the City to state their cases before administrative hearing officer James Queenan, who eventually ruled the piece a structure that needed to be moved. The Pirastehs were given an early November deadline to take action, and a compliance inspection has been scheduled for the third week of November.

Although the piece will come down, Pirasteh said he will use this momentum to continue the discussion about art, and he hopes to have meetings at his home hosting community discussions on modern art.

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