If you've walked around the neighborhood in recent months, you've probably noticed the proliferation of tagging along Divisadero and surrounding areas of the neighborhood. Tagging increased in frequency and scale as local businesses began shuttering spaces during the pandemic. Then came the closure of the Shell Gas Station and Carwash at the corner of Oak and Divisadero street, future site of the 400 Divisadero residential development. As soon as site fencing went up, taggers moved in and covered the site in spray paint.
Next on the taggers list was the garage doors and siding of the recently repainted apartment building at Grove and Divisadero. Shortly thereafter, the entire Seismic Retrofitters building was covered in tagging.
The latest tagging target was the brand new mural on the side of Rare Device being completely defaced by taggers.
Brief History of Tagging
Looking beyond the obvious damage to property , there lies a deeper cultural aspect of tagging's roots that's worth noting. According to Britannica online, "During the 20th century, graffiti in the United States and Europe was closely associated with gangs, who used it for a variety of purposes: for identifying or claiming territory, for memorializing dead gang members in an informal “obituary,” for boasting about acts (e.g., crimes) committed by gang members, and for challenging rival gangs as a prelude to violent confrontations. Graffiti was particularly prominent in major urban centers throughout the world, especially in the United States and Europe; common targets were subways, billboards, and walls. In the 1990s there emerged a new form of graffiti, known as “tagging,” which entailed the repeated use of a single symbol or series of symbols to mark territory. In order to attract the most attention possible, this type of graffiti usually appeared in strategically or centrally located neighbourhoods ".
The Impact of Unaddressed Tagging
Unaddressed tagging brings to mind the "Broken windows theory" by political scientist James Wilson and criminologist George Keilling that holds, "visible signs of crime, anti-social behavior, and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes." The theory further states that, "Policing methods targeting minor crimes such as vandalism, loitering, and fare evasion help to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness."
Unaddressed tagging will get reported to 311 and cited by the city for removal within 30 days or face a fine that can exceed $360. Residential enforcement of graffitti removal recently ramped back up in July.
This month the Board of Supervisors will be voting on final approval of a bill that provides $4 million over two years for the Department of Public Works to clean up private properties, once they opt in.The bill aims focus on neighborhood commercial corridors to alleviate the burden on property owners and business owners in these areas.
Here are some additional community generated solutions from ASNA members that can be tested seperately or in parallel to reduce tagging.
- Establish a graffitti removal fund in partnership with the Divisadero Merchants Association and Nopna to hire graffitti removal teams that can respond quickly and remove the tagging.
- Hosting volunteer days focused on tagging removal around the neighborhood. Currently, we don't have a partner organization to manage the details like insurance, paint colors, and owner approvals that would make an event like this possible. But there might be a possibility of partnering with DPW if it expands its ability to tackle graffitti directly through the funding bill.
- Create a temporary rotating panel space at the Shell Car Wash where taggers and graffitti artists would be invited to create. Think Clarion Alley in the Mission, where thousands of visitors walk through every year to take pictures and admire the vibrant colors and messages.
If you have an idea you'd like to share around how to manage tagging around the neighborhood, please contact the ASNA board with your suggestions.
Sources: 1. https://www.britannica.com/art/graffiti-art Territorial , 2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_windows_theory