Dee Chhin can breathe a litle easier. It took the Philadelphia Board of Licenses and Inspection Review just eight minutes to unanimously decide that her mural The Death of Venus gets to stay where she painted it six years ago.
"I'm just happy it's over," said Chhin. "Finally, I can focus on something else that's not so controversial."
"I'm shocked. This has been six years in the fighting. I am just amazed," said Michael Sher, a Center City real estate broker who commissioned the emigre Cambodian transwoman and aspiring artist to paint the mural in 2001 to dissuade graffitists from tagging the building's wall. He also funded the legal fight to keep it there.
The controversy started when officials at nearby Peirce College, whose campus is across the street, learned that the mural did not have a permit and complained to the Historical Commission.
The commission then cited Sher because the 1850 brick townhouse that the mural is painted on is in the Rittenhouse-Fitler Residential Historic District. That designation meant that owners can't alter building exteriors without obtaining Historical Commission approval.
The mural was granted interim approval due to the complexities of Philadelphia's permit laws. It allowed the mural to remain undisturbed for four years before Sher had to apply for an extension. During that time the mural became a popular and promoted stop on Philly's murals tour.
When those four years passed the Philadelphia Historical Commission in January voted twice to remove the mural, setting the stage for the August 14 hearing.
City officials stated that it would be up to the Historical Commission to decide whether they wished to appeal the ruling to Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.