Word on Webster: Tagged
By Steve Gerstle
Tagged. You’ve seen it on West End walls, bus shelters, mailboxes, lamp posts, news racks, buildings and even on moving vehicles. Those cryptic swirls can rapidly take over a neighborhood.
We contacted Alameda’s Public Works department, the Alameda Police Department and the West Alameda Business Association to find out what you can do to get the graffiti removed. According to these city leaders, the best way for residents to fight back against graffiti vandalism is to swiftly remove it. The longer the graffiti remains, the greater the reward for the tagger and the more likely it will spread.
Public Works Director Matt Naclerio said his department is responsible for the removal of graffiti on infrastructure it maintains, which includes traffic signal controller boxes, bus shelters, regulatory signs and pump stations. In 2010, the department responded to 548 reports of graffiti vandalism; it spends $20,000 a year on removal.
The city responds to graffiti on a complaint basis only; the department’s goal is to remove graffiti within 48 hours of receiving a report (weekends excluded). Graffiti vandalism is most prevalent near the business districts, Naclerio said, though the graffiti removed from bus shelters, along Webster Street and other areas by private contractors is not included in the department’s numbers.
Alameda Municipal Power is responsible for its facilities, such as street lights, utility poles and cabinets. The city’s Recreation and Parks Department is responsible for graffiti removal in city parks, and private utility companies such as PG&E are responsible for their facilities. While residents can report graffiti directly to each city agency, Public Works will forward the report to the responsible agency on behalf of the resident.
Kathy Moehring, executive director of the West Alameda Business Association, believes that graffiti can give the impression that a neighborhood is not safe. This deters shoppers, lowers property values and hurts the local economy. Moehring said private property owners are responsible for removing graffiti from their property, while the city removes graffiti from public property. WABA also works with a private maintenance company to help keep Webster Street clean and free of graffiti.
In addition to removing graffiti as quickly as possible, Moehring said inviting artists to put their own work on sites that are often vandalized is an effective deterrent. Alameda artist Michael McDonald has been volunteering his time painting hearts and other artwork along Webster Street in order to make the area more attractive and to deter vandalism.
Another important deterrent: reporting the crime to police. Detective Craig Vreeland said the Alameda Police Department only received 62 reports of graffiti vandalism in 2010. Only two arrests were made. Reporting graffiti vandalism to the city’s Public Works department for removal does not mean that the vandalism will be included in crime statistics; meanwhile, police will directly contact Public Works to expedite graffiti removal only if the vandalism obliterates a stop sign, is meant to incite violence or is in a high visibility area. Residents who see graffiti vandalism in progress should call APD’s non-emergency number, 337-8340.
The city’s web-based reporting system, Comcate, is also a powerful tool in the battle against graffiti. The website can be accessed here, or you can call 747-7900.
Where to report graffiti
Comcate Website: https://clients.comcate.com/newrequest.php?id=25
Alameda Police Department Non-emergency number (Graffiti in progress)
Bus shelters are being installed at three busy bus stops on Webster Street. The new shelters are going in at the southbound bus stop on Webster and Atlantic by the Days Inn, the southbound bus stop at Webster at Buena Vista by the Elders Inn and at the northbound bus stop at Webster and Buena Vista by the Union 76 gas station.
Façade improvement has begun at 1445 Webster Street, the building that is home to Calafia Taqueria, Larry’s Shoe Repair and the Record Gallery. The current façade is being removed and the original brick façade underneath is being restored. The overhang will be removed and an awning will be installed. In addition, the windows will be replaced.
Everett & Jones BBQ at 1518 Webster Street appears to be closed. The sign on the building says that it is bank owned and for sale. The furnishings are being removed.
The for sale sign in the window of the Fireside Lounge at 1453 Webster Street has been taken down. No notice of liquor license transfer has been posted in the window, though word on the street is that a sale has taken place.
The City of Alameda issued a Stop Work Order to Kapok Restaurant at 1511 Webster Street for installing signs and lighting without a permit.
There is a sign in the window of 1545 Webster Street saying that a Greek deli will soon be opening. No date for the opening is listed.
There is haircut price war taking place between the two adjacent hair salons at 1548 and 1550 Webster Street. One offers cuts for $10 and the other for $9.
The sounds of construction can once again be heard coming from 1616 Webster Street. The building was gutted two years ago and progress has been sporadic.
The recently opened 99 Cents store at 1423 Webster Street is now closed. The sign in the window says that a market will be opening soon, but there is no visible evidence that this is about to happen.
The furnishings have been removed from the New Zealander and the bar and grill shows no signs of life.
A tattoo business is seeking zoning approval to set up shop at 650 Haight Avenue. The location is in a small building across the street from Garden Cleaners.