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L.A. Council Approves Plan for Graffiti Cleanup

August 24, 1986|PATRICIA KLEIN | Times Staff Writer

The Westside and the San Fernando Valley are not usually thought of as the parts of Los Angeles with the most serious graffiti problems. They will get half the work crews, however, under a $150,000 pilot program by the Los Angeles City Council to clean up graffiti.

The program, approved unanimously by the council, will use two crews, one covering the Westside and the Valley, the other the rest of the city, said Anna Sklar, public information director for the Department of Public Works.

The program--designed to clean city-owned property, not private property--will be coordinated by the city's Bureau of Street Maintenance, which will contract with one or more private firms to provide crews and equipment, Sklar said.

"There are more gang crimes, more gang members, more gangs and more gang graffiti in East Los Angeles and South and Central Los Angeles than the Valley and the Westside," Los Angeles Police Detective Bob Jackson said.

But, he said, parts of the Westside and the San Fernando Valley also are plagued with graffiti.

"I don't see that we should abandon one area because its problem isn't as severe as another area's," he said.

"The Valley is slowly but surely increasing in gang activity. I see no reason why it shouldn't be attacked right now while you've got the public support and they haven't given up. . . .

"Some neighborhoods say, 'Why bother? It just gets repainted every night.' "

Dave Reed, assistant director of the Bureau of Street Maintenance, noted that "there is more graffiti in some parts of the city than others" but said the bureau is following the mandate of City Council to allocate half the manpower to the Westside and Valley.

It will probably be at least a month before the start of the graffiti removal drive approved by the council, Sklar said.

The crews will respond to citizen complaints over a graffiti hot line connected to a telephone answering machine. The calls will be forwarded to the private crews, said Bill Gilson, spokesman for City Councilman John Ferraro, who proposed the anti-graffiti squad.

The Bureau of Street Maintenance removes graffiti as part of its regular duties, assigning priority to graffiti that is obscene, makes racial slurs or obscures street signs, Sklar said. But this program marks the first time that the city has hired work crews specifically to eradicate graffiti, she said.

Dee Carey, principal administrative analyst with the city administrative office, said that, although there are other graffiti-removal programs, the new project will be the most extensive.

She said the work is being submitted to contractors to save the city money. Two-person city crews would cost an estimated $380,000--including the cost of equipment--the first year and about $190,000 annually thereafter, Carey said.

The crews will probably use a variety of cleanup techniques, Carey said. Non-porous surfaces can be painted over. But porous surfaces such as natural brick and cement block walls require sandblasting, or the use of industrial chemicals and solvents applied under pressure, she said.

If it works, the yearlong pilot project will probably be extended and expanded, Gilson said.

Sklar said the allocation of labor corresponds to the bureau's two zones, one covering the Westside and Valley, the other the rest of the city.

Jackson cautioned that the cleanup will not provide an instant solution to graffiti. It could, in fact, make the problem worse for a time, he said.

"The gang member is going to get very upset. He's going to say, 'Hey, I have been slighted. I'll show them.' He may do even more to say, 'Hey, you can't do this to me.' "

But, he added: "I think it's a first step. You've got to be more stubborn than the gang members."

The pilot program is one of several anti-graffiti motions introduced by Ferraro.

Other anti-graffiti programs include a campaign by Project Heavy, a nonprofit organization supported by funds from the Community Development Department and other public and private donations, Carey said. Project Heavy uses teen-agers on probation for minor offenses who are required to perform public service as a condition of probation. It concentrates primarily on obscene and racially oriented graffiti on public property, Carey said.

The Los Angeles Unified School District operates a $300,000-a-year program using two crews to eradicate graffiti on school district properties from the Manchester area south to San Pedro, she said.

Jackson said there are programs in each council district to help homeowners get paint to cover graffiti. Mayor Tom Bradley, who appointed a blue-ribbon panel to study the graffiti problem, has his own anti-graffiti program, Carey said.

A state statute passed in 1981 makes it illegal to sell paint in spray cans to anyone under 18.

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