Summarizing the great graffiti debate …

by on June 15, 2009 · 25 comments

in Economy, Environment, Ocean Beach, Organizing, San Diego

Okay, this has been a heckuva interesting ride the last week or so and handful of articles – and very timely too, as I’ve been making similar observations of late. It seems like there’s a lively debate on where political and art-inspired graffiti fits into the general urban landscape.

Some interesting points have been made on both the ‘graffiti is an art form,’ and ‘all tagging is tasteless vandalism,’ sides of the coin. Every time I try to plan out a coherent response it seems like I hit refresh and someone’s posted a new angle to think about, which is why until now I’ve stayed silent on something I’ve got a lot to say about. But I think we all agree at this point that the crap on the cliffs captured on some of the other posts related to the subject qualifies neither as an art form nor coherent counterculture statement.

At this juncture I see three divergent potential courses of action:

1. Keep bitching about it amongst ourselves. This is the easiest and most obvious thing to do, and as I’ve said the ongoing dialogue continues to bring new and worthy viewpoints to light. But ultimately we’ve got to come to grips with the fact that the warm fuzzy feeling we all get is just the heat of soiling our pants when confronted with the need for real action.

2. Bitch about it to the cops/city council/someone else. I don’t much care for this course of action either, and I’d like to suggest that some of this increase in vandalism is due to the recently-passed beach alcohol ban, please hear me out on this tangent for a minute…

With booze banned along the infamous “the Wall,” and on the shores around the pier, have the ne’er do-wells simply stopped drinking? Disappeared? Nay, friends – most have relocated their haunts about a quarter mile south along the cliffs, where the pork rarely roams and where they’re now, free from supervision, welcome to relieve themselves in public (the public bathroom is now too far away), litter even more than before (no trash cans nearby = an excuse for some to drop crap wherever it’s convenient), partake in a lot more than just swigging forties (that acidic, slightly sweet, decidedly non-herbal smell coming from their pipes is tweek), and tag up anything that doesn’t move.

I came to town about a year before the beach ban took effect, left for a while, and came back a few months before voters made it permanent. As walking the cliffs used to be my preferred walking route from my old apartment on Abbott to a friend’s that I spent a lot of time with off Coronado, and as I spend a lot of time down there with my stepdaughter now living off Coronado, I’ve seen the deterioration of the situation of the area, and it seems to somewhat coincide with the ban’s enactment.

So why don’t I think more policing is the answer? First off, I believe in the freedom of people to pretty much do whatever as long as they’re not harming others, and police presence always tends to limit freedom.

I have a right to swing my fists around, but that right ends at the tip of your nose, so to speak. Maybe I flaunt the ban by pouring a little something extra in my water bottle that accompanies me to a day at the Santa Cruz cove with my family, maybe I like to stop off for a toke on the way to or from the Newport bars, maybe I’ve been entertained by the various drum circles, fire dancers, or other weirdos that take up temporary residence along the cliffs but who would probably catch more than a sidewise glance from Johnny Law. Which leaves one obvious solution…

3. Get out and do something. I’m totally down to join in with anyone willing to put together some kind of paint-out party along the seawall on the cliffs, whether or not mimosas or herbal supplements are involved (I’d prefer both).

I wonder if we’d need some kind of city permit to do it, as I’d hate to end up cuffed and kissing the sidewalk for trying to do a good deed – has anyone looked into this? I put in both phone and internet inquiries to the city about two weeks ago and haven’t heard anything back.

A couple ideas – one, could we get some local merchant to provide some signage to post on the walls describing the detrimental effect of carving in the sandstone? I doubt this would deter many of the swastika carvers, but maybe at least a handful of the ‘Billy Bob loves Darlene’ types might be dissuaded from busting out a chisel.

Second, and this one has been suggested, what would it take to get some actual graffiti artists out to put together some kind of mural along the seawall once it was cleaned up? I’m in agreement with those that have said we really don’t need any kind of paint out there as Mother Nature has provided us with the most artistic landscape any of us could imagine already, but it seems one of the only things taggers respect is better tagging, so hopefully some kind of art would be less susecptible to getting f’d up than a new blank canvas.

Those that have suggested a course of action – please, share it with everyone here a few weeks in advance. I know I’m not the only bandwagon-jumper willing to get involved!

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Graffiti June 15, 2009 at 7:40 am

Nice story, I wish that if people were just going to graffiti they would do some nice stuff as there are some nice graffiti artists out there.

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avatar lane June 15, 2009 at 6:51 am

PSD – youre right on. I started doing a little research recently about getting some kind of graffiti showcase event here in OB…thats my kind of thing, and Im interested in seeing how it would effect this mess, so I’m going to see how we can make it work. As soon as I get more info togehterI will publicize that.

As for a paint out, paint over kind of thing…frank gormlie discussed in a previous post about his work doing something similar in City Heights. It is time consuming and not rewarding until the tagging actually stops – but if people are dedicated, it will make a difference. PSD is correct though – somebody needs to take the reigns, otherwise it will just become a continuous bitchfest. Some people are interested but don’t have the time to navigate organizing such a thing….maybe those who have the time to do something – and bitch about it – can help get the party started. Then the people who don’t have the time to organize, but will inevitably join the crusade, will jump on board. On the comments section of “the ugly side of OB” there is someone called nomorelittering, nomoretagging who wants to do something. I asked them for contact information on that post. Hopefully that will grow and people will join the cause, and come up with a positive action to combat this.

That is grassroots organizing at its most basic. We don’t need the police involved in this, especially in OB. We have the right community and the right kinds of people. unfortunately, the shit isnt going to go away on its own….so come on people, lets rise to the challenge!

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avatar Shawn Conrad June 15, 2009 at 10:36 am

I find the holes in the roads WAY more of a blight than graffiti. The parking police have to make a pretty penny handing out so many tickets a month. Yet, it seems the money never makes its way back into the OB infrastructure. This is a safety concern, and it beats up one’s vehicle.

OB is the gritty side of town. The dog crap, the unkempt homes and apartment buildings, the unwashed masses that survive by dumpster diving. Areas like this are going to have crime, graffiti, and blight.

That is why I live here. I am not bitter or looking fora fight. I am just saying that you cannot expect outisders to respect a community littered with dog feces, vomit, trash, and alleyways full of discarded housewares.

Feces adn poor roads can cause harm to humans. Spray paint is unsightly. Do you see how you are puttign the cart before the horse?

Yeah, probably not.

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avatar lane tobias June 15, 2009 at 11:08 am

just a heads up shawn – as far as roads go, don’t expect anything to happen soon. Remember, California’s a third world country now, and the first thing that goes is infrastructure. You can probably assume the potholes will get worse.

I think when saying it is “the gritty part of town” you are comparing OB to your own perception of it. Most people I know take pretty good care of their houses, and take pride in their neighborhood. Are you saying we’re not allowed to want OB to be spruced up a bit? dog feces is disgusting, but I’m pretty sure you have to ingest it to get sick from it. Im hoping thats not something that happens to you on a regular basis.

One of the things I love about OB is just how damn clean it is – comparably – to other places I’ve lived. Sometimes, the amount of litter strewn about bothers me. So I pick up what I can. Instead of just sitting around talking about what needs to happen, we all need to realize that we are going to be getting less and less support from our government, local and above, because they are dead broke. So chip in a little. If you see someone allowing their dog to shit on your lawn, call them out on it and hand them a plastic bag. If you hate the way the alleys look, talk to your neighbors about getting things cleaned up.

Do I sound like a socialist or just a realist?

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avatar nomorelittering, nomoretagging June 15, 2009 at 11:13 am

Here is my original comment. Scroll down to see the plan.

Maybe its time for some Civic Deterrence. Lots of people love OB. The litter and grafitti are disrespectful. Don’t wait for the police/government to solve your problems! We have the resources in our backyard.

How bout we get a few teams of heavy bikers and local dog owners to agree to patrol the neighborhood for a few late nights a week? Communicate by cell phone/cb and figure our where the kids live. We can give these kids a good scare and a wake up call without violence. A little intimidation always helps. After a week or two, every motorcycle, and dog bark will serve as a deterrent. Talk to the all- night homeless population for clues, and offer a $50 dollar reward for the kid who spray painted the cliffs. I’m not calling for violence, just looking to send a message that this isn’t ART and doesn’t belong in OB.

Stand up for your neighborhood.

Any suggestions?

No more litter; no more tagging in OB.

HERE IS THE PLAN:
If you are interested, e-mail me with your contact info and preferred method of volunteering. I’ll put together a mailing list and work from there.

nomorelitternomoretagging@gmail.com

Example: Hey,
I’m John Doe( name optional) from OB and I would like to volunteer with my dog/motorcycle/camera/CB radio/ ect.

The bad news is I’m going out of town for two weeks and won’t be back till July 9. I may have occasional access to the internet while gone. If someone wants to get the teams started immediately e-mail me your phone # ASAP.

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avatar Shawn Conrad June 15, 2009 at 11:51 am

You are spot on Lane. OB is Dubai. I just have negative perceptions. I’ll try to perceive it the way you do, which is as a pristine community of home owners and not as a semi delapitated rental district.

P.S. The cliffs are not repersentative of OB proper. OB proper is trashy, dirty, gritty, and fecal.

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avatar lane tobias June 15, 2009 at 1:00 pm

shawn, im not going to get into a war of words here – but it is your perception. my perception of OB is that people care about their surroundings, clean up trash, keep their lawns and patios neat, and pick up after their animals. When I walk down my block to the beach on a sunny day, all I see is cute little beach houses/apartment buildings with nice lawns, painted fences, and clean streets. clearly youve never lived in a delapidated or run down neighborhood if you think OB is trashy, dirty, gritty, and fecal.

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avatar Shawn Conrad June 15, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Lane,

You see much. I came from dilapidated Appalachia, but again, you know me and how I look at things. You also know my life experiences. Fire up another one there Panama Red.

Feel free to let me know where this pristine block is because I would love to walk it to the beach. Something tells that it is south of the pier, but again only you can tell me if I am right.

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avatar OB Joe June 15, 2009 at 2:50 pm

You have Panama Red?

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avatar lane tobias June 15, 2009 at 2:56 pm

i live on brighton avenue. if you want to walk my block between abbott and bacon and show me where the grit is, feel free.

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avatar lane tobias June 15, 2009 at 3:02 pm

and just an aside – i never claimed to know anything about you, your life experiences, or what you think. I only guessed that you were not from a run down place based on the fact that YOUR PERCEPTION of YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD is different from MY PERCEPTION of MY NEIGHBORHOOD.

also feel free to bring by the panama red if you got it. ill be busy writing articles for the OB rag, working full time, and making a difference in my community – rather than bashing other people’s attempts at organizing for community revitalization…

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avatar Shawn Conrad June 15, 2009 at 3:30 pm

You go Lane. You have the perception of a 25 year old, maybe 26. Keep me posted on your revitalization of OB progress there Sparky.

P.S. The owner of the OB Rag has a picture hung of his name graffiti’d with spray paint on Tower 2. Know who you are talking to, thanks!

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avatar lane tobias June 15, 2009 at 3:52 pm

whoever the owner of the ob rag is, can you please let him/her know that they are running a profitless enterprise?

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avatar Gary Gilmore June 15, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Shawn, you’re right. Lane is about 25 or 26 years old. I’m more than twice that and I endorse what he wrote. I have been roaming the streets and alleys of OB since before Lane was born. Yeah, once upon a time there was a lot of dog crap on the sidewalks as well as a lot of unkempt yards and the was a lot more litter on the streets but, I’ve seen a significant change in all that. It is now uncool to let your dog crap on a lawn without cleaning it up. Try throwing trash from your car window and you’ll get called on it. As for the alleys…. Well they do indeed need work but, they’re better by far than what they were 20 years ago. The reason for this cleaner environment is pride of ownership and pride of the neighborhood. This is what will reduce (probably never eliminate completely) graffiti. When enough voices are heard and the perception becomes one where it’s understood that spray painting a tag is just nothing but uncool it might just disappear. Calling the police is an exercise in futility. The best thing to do is to cover it up ASAP and let it be known that it’s just not cool to tag. It will take a while but, it’s really the only avenue we have. Keep getting the word out and try having a more positive view on the neighborhood.

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avatar nomorelitter,nomoretagging June 15, 2009 at 4:34 pm

I’m already getting feedback from people who would like to see this problem eliminated. How about a volunteer from the OBMA to help us coordinate a booth at the OB Street fair? We could provide a location for “artists” to do their thing. We could encourage taggers to avoid the cliffs and private property. We could offer a reward for the arrest of the person who spray painted the cliffs.

We could also spread the word that some dangerous Obecians are looking to catch the taggers before the police do. I need a couple of heavy biker/crazy local types to help spread the word in the streets, the bars, the shops. I don’t want anyone getting hurt, just the word getting out that locals are fed up.
Are you ready to stand up for your neighborhood or are you going to wait for the police/gov’t to do it?

e-mail me at:
nomorelitternomoretagging@gmail.com

Example: Hey,
I’m John Doe( name optional) from OB and I would like to volunteer with my dog/motorcycle/camera/CB radio/reward money/ect.

Here is my original comment. Scroll down to see the plan.

Maybe its time for some Civic Deterrence. Lots of people love OB. The litter and grafitti are disrespectful. Don’t wait for the police/government to solve your problems! We have the resources in our backyard.

How bout we get a few teams of heavy bikers and local dog owners to agree to patrol the neighborhood for a few late nights a week? Communicate by cell phone/cb and figure our where the kids/taggers live. We can give these kids a good scare and a wake up call without violence. A little intimidation always helps. After a week or two, every motorcycle, and dog bark will serve as a deterrent. Talk to the all- night homeless population for clues, and offer a $50 dollar reward for the kid who spray painted the cliffs. I’m not calling for violence, just looking to send a message that this isn’t ART and doesn’t belong in OB.

Stand up for your neighborhood.

Any suggestions?

No more litter; no more tagging in OB.

HERE IS THE PLAN:
If you are interested, e-mail me with your contact info and preferred method of volunteering. I’ll put together a mailing list and work from there.

nomorelitternomoretagging@gmail.com

Example: Hey,
I’m John Doe( name optional) from OB and I would like to volunteer with my dog/motorcycle/camera/CB radio/ ect.

The bad news is I’m going out of town for two weeks and won’t be back till July 9. I may have occasional access to the internet while gone. If someone wants to get the teams started immediately e-mail me your phone # ASAP.

Reply

avatar jon June 15, 2009 at 8:19 pm

Shawn, you’re coming across as bitter and jaded. Probably the case. But whatever. I’m with Lane and the rest of the folks who want to be part of the solution and not just gripe about dog poo all day.

So, we’ve got a group together for Saturday morning, gallons of paint have already been donated, apparently one of the guys has a sprayer and we will be out on the cliffs at 7am Saturday morning. If you would like to join us, email the Rag for my personal contact info and I can provide more details. We will probably still need extra hands. The more the merrier. It’s time to stop talking and get some work done.

Peace.

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avatar jon June 15, 2009 at 8:51 pm

I just wanted to add, I don’t think threats of bodily harm against the taggers is a good idea. Funny to joke about, but in reality, not good. I like Lane’s idea about trying to organize a more sanctioned graffiti art type of event. This issue should be tackled on multiple levels. There is not just one simple solution as we can attest to from the past 100 comments on this board. So if you see tagging on your street either paint it out or report it to the business that’s been tagged so they can paint it out. The taggers are marking their perceived territory. If we go paint it out, we send the message that it’s not okay, and this is our territory. It will take time and perseverance, but I believe if the effort is kept up, they will tire and move on. We can do it.

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avatar Editor June 15, 2009 at 8:52 pm

Jon’s right. Anyone interested in joining the graffiti-paint-out and litter patrol this Saturday, contact us at obragblog@gmail.com or thru this comment section, leave your contact info, and we’ll help coordinate the cleaning party.

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avatar lane tobias June 15, 2009 at 9:38 pm

bravo jon!

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avatar Gary Gilmore June 15, 2009 at 9:55 pm

Frank, what time and where would be a good place to meet?

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avatar Shawn Conrad June 16, 2009 at 7:19 am

OK, OK! I surrender. I apologize for sounding negative.

I took a walk down Lane’s block. It is very well kept and there were no signs of blight.

I had to spray paint your neighbors fence, throw cigarette butts around, and relocate some dog doo doo just to make my point. Shame on you Lane. Look what you’ve done.

I am teasing, and I’ll see you all early Saturday morning. Frank, have your cell phone on because I am going to start blowing up your phone at 7:01.

I love you guys,

Shawn

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avatar Frank Gormlie June 16, 2009 at 7:32 am

Gary – Jon C is taking the lead on this; I’m just following orders.

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avatar Kim Howell June 16, 2009 at 11:21 am

Thanks Gary, for your wisdom and willingness to get into action on the tagging. As a local artist, and devout OBecian, who walks frequently, as most of us do, either along the cliffs or the neighborhoods, it has been a huge pain in my heart to see the tagging wherever it lands. Often I have been hired to paint a mural to deter the taggers….and it has worked! I also repainted a fully tagged wall(N/C) at the end of Sunsett Cliff and Pt. Loma Ave. to create a “Kids Community Mural Wall”. However, my original intention was to clean up and repaint the wall down by the pier, to create a giant mural canvass for the kids of the community attending my Young At Art Center. We were and are STILL willing to take on these kind of projects to clean up and enhance our beautiful little community. Not to mention we can take a bummer situation and turn it into a blessing for all the kids out there who want to paint,while contributing to the arts and esthetics in OB! I was told I would have to go thru the city council on this…..and as I was trying to expedite cleaning a wall for the kids, I went with the first one offered at Sunsett Ciffs and Pt. Loma Ave. at Pt.Loma Gas&Market.They were about to be tickeketed for the tagging on their front wall, and so happily donated the wall for me to clean up for my students. Young at Art Children’s Art Center opens this July. In no time at all I’m sure I can get a group of anxious little painters ready to do a community project to “Clean up and Beautify OB” I’ve done this before, and believe me the kids love it and feel such a sense of pride! Whoever is in charge, and motivated….CONTACT ME!
Ciao,
Kim Howell/”Artworks”/ Young At Art Childrens Art Center
619-459-1955

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avatar Gary Gilmore June 16, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Hello Kim, Thank you for thinking that I had wisdom and that I was willing to get into action. While my wisdom is a subject of debate I am indeed willing to participate. The person with the wisdom and the initiative is Jon Carr. He’s putting this together and I’m sure he’ll appreciate your involvement. As one of Ocean Beach’s foremost muralists your involvement will speak volumes to the graffiti situation. You and Jon will work well together. Cheers!

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avatar Dave Gilbert June 16, 2009 at 4:29 pm

“Young at Art” That’s beautiful Kim! I see your good work all over town too, thanks for being involved!

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