The Sunset’s Graffiti Plague: Reality and Solutions

Harry S. Pariser
4 min readDec 15, 2023

The Inner Sunset, as with every other neighborhood in San Francisco, has a graffiti problem. Some of the worst examples are on Department of Public Works structures such as the “parklet” street seating at the Going to Golden Gate Park Theme above.

Not only is the structure ridden with graffiti, the nearby circles that have unkempt vegetation also host scrawls on their rusting steel surfaces.

Further up Ninth Avenue to the south we find even more graffiti that DPW should be taking care of but seldom are. In this case, it is on poles and on the sidewalk.

Sidewalk and utility pole graffiti; graffiti is seldom removed and never promptly

Across the street we find more examples of this youthful “art” form. Note the defacement of the DPW-maintained sign to the left of the commercial poster-covered bulletin board.

Could it be the same person using white paint?

Around the corner of Judah heading west we have corporate graffiti mixed with indigenous graffiti. These ads are placed on boarded up areas throughout the city with absolute impunity; no abuser of the public space is ever cited let alone fined. Why remains a mystery. But a psychic might find that it has something to do with campaign contributions.

Important messages from corporations are part of the Inner Sunset’s perpetually changing artistic landscape.

Back down and right down on the corner of 9th and Irving, in front of Jamba Juice, one finds a tagged yellow truncated dome. On the plus side, this helps activate the crosswalk.

Tagging on one of the hazardous truncated domes required by federal law

This parklet, which SFMTA wanted to remove to install a badly-needed loading zone, has been covered with graffiti for months and months.

Parklet saved from demolition to restore a loading zone, Ninth Avenue.

Closed businesses are now endemic in the Inner Sunset. It is not surprising that they are magnets for graffiti.

Deeply meaningful phrases in bold colors adorn the closed Supercuts on Irving.

One of the most annoying forms of graffiti are the giant scrawls decorating tops of many of our buildings. These are difficult and expensive to remove. It is sad that society has not found ways to direct this attention and skill elsewhere.

Using three colors no less! Anyone know a “Monty”?

Farther down on Irving, past the 19th Avenue freeway, we find a plethora of youthful calligraphic installations.

As elsewhere, we see lots of rooftop installations. How do they gain access?

Second try. Seriously, anyone know a “Monty”?

And, again, weeks and weeks go by and the graffiti is not removed from DPW-maintained spaces. Not only do the plants seem to be dying, citywide, in these types of enclosures; they are not maintained. The government should be leading by example.

Extraterrestrial structures host indigenous calligraphy of the highest order.

On the same side of the street we find this multiple-effort graffiti installation.

“Let a hundred flowers bloom.” Diversity of graffiti texture and color her is truly something to behold.

On the corner of 22nd and Irving, where the sculptural objects above make their home, we also find one of the new Mohammed Nuru-commissioned garbage cans. A planter packed with flourishing vegetation stands in front. Across the street more creative efforts are on the bottom and top of the billboard, while a number of efforts grace the wall of the building to the far left.

One of the legendary new $12,000 trash can prototypes stands next to a planter.

Across the street we find an empty tagged bulletin board. The bottom graffiti has been painted over currently. A better solution would have been to just remove the billboard.

Finally, here is a closer view of the parking lot graffiti.

Graffiti by Walgreens on Irving.

So we see the problem. What are the solutions?

  • DPW should hold meetings with residents and ask for suggestions.
  • San Francisco should look to see if other cities have solutions.
  • More arts, sports and music classes for children might burn off some of that energy.
  • Parents need to have a conversation with their children about why graffiti is undesirable and is a problem.
  • A city-funded full-time graffiti cleanup squad needs to be mobilized. Businesses and residents should not have to pay to remedy societal-caused damage.
  • Educational TikTok videos, posters and other media can be produced which will discourage tagging.
  • As tagging will continue no matter what, some areas should be formally designated as legitimate tagging zones while strictly enforcing no-tagging tolerance in other areas.

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Harry S. Pariser

Harry S. Pariser is a long time resident of San Francisco, CA. He is a writer (and author), artist and photographer.