Futuristic coating could repel graffiti

Park officials are testing a nanotechnology coating on open-space play structures that should create a molecular surface so smooth it deflects graffiti.

The translucent product is applied like paint, sprayed or brushed on, and was presented by Safeguard Surfaces to The City’s Graffiti Advisory Board on Thursday. It adheres to the contours of any facade except silicon, then The City uses standard graffiti-removal chemicals to wash it off — but with minimal scrubbing so it doesn’t ruin the surface and it leaves no traces.

Every day, Rec and Park sends a crew of cleaners out to several locations to remove swastikas, profanities and other obscenities from its play equipment. Last fiscal year, park employees spent close to 3,500 hours cleaning the graffiti off play equipment — the equivalent of $301,000, according to Rec and Park.

Preliminary tests of the product are working out well.

“We used it on Joe Lee [Recreation Center], stucco walls, painted walls … and from what I can tell it really works,” said Joe Padilla, the Recreation and Park Department board member tasked with cleaning graffiti in The City’s parks. “They can talk about technology. I don’t care. I just care that it works.”

The commercial product is manufactured in Texas but was represented by Walnut Creek company Safeguard Services, which said it meets LEED standards and is biodegradable. Officials also said it sticks to anything except silicon, can stand up to 500 degrees of heat and apparently lasts for years and 100 washes.

However, there are some problems. Once it’s sprayed on, it can only be taken off with a high-pressure remover such as steam.

“If you want to change the paint from yellow to green, you’re not going to change it,” said Rick Stenberg of Safeguard Surfaces.

And The City’s Department of the Environment has not yet tested it.

Despite the potential hiccups, however, the Graffiti Advisory Board was impressed and has suggested putting information about how to buy the coating on the Department of Public Works website.

Rec and Park officials said it is too early to tell if they plan on blanketing their open spaces with it.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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