Proactive graffiti measures proffered

A citywide graffiti crackdown could force San Bruno property owners to take anti-vandalism actions into their own hands. Vandals struck 365 locations throughout the city in 2007, with the majority of incidents occurring in the downtown business districts, and costing the city thousands of dollars in cleanup costs. Fifteen arrests were made last year for graffiti-related incidents, police said.

The city currently pays a private contractor to remove about three to seven pieces of graffiti once or twice per week. Last year, the city spent $14,000 to eradicate graffiti from 232 locations last year at a rate of $60 per removal.

City officials are debating three changes to the city code to thwart the vandalism that puts some responsibility for the prevention and cleanup on local business owners. One recommendation would require owners of any “graffiti prone surface or location” to prevent the vandalism by adding such deterrents as lighting, landscaping or paint-resistant surfaces. Another recommendation has property owners splitting the cost for graffiti removal with the city. The third makes minor changes to the graffiti ordinance to quicken the cleanup process.

Authorities would have to determine how many tags, or graffiti markings, on a specific surface would constitute that location as “graffiti prone” and thus liable to the preventative measures, City Manager Connie Jackson said.

Bill Cleveland, who owns Denise’s Coin Laundry on San Mateo Avenue, said his business is tagged so often he buys paint and cleans up the graffiti himself. He thinks requiring businesses to have extra lighting or landscaping makes it appear that the property owner is at fault.

“I don’t think [extra lighting] would do any good,” Cleveland said. “The city wants to punish the property owner.”

Despite the frequency of graffiti throughout the city, many businesses do not report vandalism to police, said Laura Baughman, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. But police rely on residents and business owners to report the vandalism through its graffiti hotline, San Bruno police Cmdr. Noreen Hanlon said.

She said that most offenders are minors and repeat taggers, and often are associated with gangs.

If the council approves of the measures, the graffiti ordinance could change within three months, Jackson said.

Councilmember Rico Medina called for the report after he helped bring forward the original graffiti ordinance in 1995.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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