Forget those math rules you learned as a student. Sometimes, two positives do result in a negative. Just ask Van Pfister, the Mission Hills gas-station owner whose plight brings new meaning to the saying: "When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled."
Pfister is no graffiti-lover, just a businessman who was losing $400 a month in graffiti removal costs.
He turned to Elephant No. 1, the Graffiti Alternatives Awareness Program. GAAP teaches its charges the difference between vandalism and tagging where you have permission. Unfortunately, the youths have an inflated perception of themselves as "artists" and "writers."
Still, the mural that GAAP youths painted on Pfister's gas station cut his cleanup costs by 80%. But it also caught the eye of Elephant No. 2, the Sylmar Graffiti Busters, which has done stellar work cleaning up graffiti vandalism.
You could say that the Graffiti Busters ascribe to the philosophy that the only good tagger is one who has had all his spray paint taken away. They weren't about to go along with a mural signed by taggers, much less recurring versions of the same.
The office of City Councilman Richard Alarcon tried to mediate the dispute, but the businessman's interests were still trampled in the end. There will be a new and permanent mural without signatures. For the Graffiti Busters, it will be an eyesore they'd love to eradicate. For GAAP, it will be unsigned art. For Pfister, it will mean a return to regular paint store runs when the taggers again take over his walls.