Graffiti backs up citizens to the seawall

Reports, repairs, and mural commissioning among solutions

Ocean Beach seawall
  • Ocean Beach seawall

Over the past few years, the sandstone cliffs and similarly colored retaining walls in Ocean Beach have been plagued by graffiti and tagging.

The City of San Diego has a rewards program if you nab someone tagging.

I’ve received many rewards for calling in taggers when I see them in action. You are encouraged to call 911 if you see tagging or graffiti in progress; otherwise, it’s somewhat difficult to track down the perp after the fact.

Don’t confront the taggers, but call 911, wait for the police to show up, and give them your info, as you are essentially making a citizen’s arrest. Get an incident report, fill out the form via the website, and when the perp’s case is over, you get a reward. It can take a month or a year, depending on the case, and the reward depends on what was damaged.

I’ve gotten checks ranging from $250 to $350 for each incident. (If the case is reported by police, the city acts much more quickly than if you just send in a online report.)

Citizens’ arrests are one solution, but why not hire some great artists to create murals along the seawall? The upside to murals is that most taggers won’t deface someone else’s art. There was an amazing mural someone did at the foot of Del Monte Avenue last summer, and the area remained tag-free until the mural was painted over.

I recently spoke with Eric Stevens of the California Coastal Commission, who explained to me that a seawall mural request would have to go through the city or the property owners. “No one has ever brought this issue up before,” he said, “and no one has ever asked if they can paint a dolphin on the seawall before.”

The city’s Streets Division referred me to the Park and Rec folks to see if a community mural would be permitted, but no response was forthcoming, days after I made the call.

Matthew Mitchell paints over graffiti on February 26

Matthew Mitchell paints over graffiti on February 26

Until recently, graffiti reports to the city were addressed by Urban Corps, which would paint over the marred walls. The city no longer contracts with Urban Corps, so now when you report graffiti to the city, it takes a long time to get it painted over…which means more gang tags and graffiti remain on the cliff walls, which attract more graffiti vandals.

For quite a while, residents have been donating their time and paint to keep the seawall free of graffiti; however, they can’t keep up without assistance from the city or Urban Corps.

On February 26, new tags appeared on the seawall by the pier. Within an hour, O.B. resident Matthew Mitchell was painting it out.

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The first time they're caught - amputate one thumb and one testicle. (probably on opposite sides so their body is in balance). The second time they're caught - amputate the other thumb and testicle. That way, they can't hold a can of spray paint nor can they reproduce.

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