San Francisco inches closer to $4M graffiti removal pilot program for small business owners

ByLena Howland via KGO logo
Thursday, July 21, 2022
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San Francisco inches closer to a $4 million graffiti removal pilot program to help small businesses told to clean up their property or face fines.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A Vietnamese restaurant has been tagged with graffiti repeatedly while trying to open up shop in the Sunset District within the next couple of months. But this week's tagging came with a warning from the San Francisco Department of Public Works to clean it up or face a fine in 30 days.

As cars race by on 20th Avenue and Irving Street, a fresh coat of graffiti covers the old KFC/Taco Bell.

"The graffiti, it costs me a lot of money because every tag, I've got to go paint that thing," said restaurant owner Viet Nguyen.

On the inside, however, Nguyen has been busy transforming the space to turn it into a Vietnamese restaurant called GAO Viet Kitchen.

He says it's scheduled to open in September.

"I don't actually expect it to stop, but the most frustrating thing is, I keep on getting tagged by the city, but what can I do?" he said. "I clean it up, I board it up, or whatever I need to do and it comes back."

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The tagging has happened so many times, that he's lost count.

"I'm not going to deal with this stuff at this point anymore. At this point, I'm done, I'm waiting until September," he said.

And it doesn't end there.

"This is what gets to me, that really gets me," Nguyen said as he pointed out a notice from the city next to his front door.

The city gave him a notice that he has 30 days to clean it up or face a fine of more than $360.

"During the pandemic, the heart of the pandemic, we did hit pause, on enforcement of graffiti tags on private property. We just started that up this week," said Rachel Gordon, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Department of Public Works.

However, some relief is in the works for small business owners like Nguyen.

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On July 20, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors gave initial approval for a public works graffiti abatement pilot program.

"So you'd still get a notice of violation on your property and then we'll have information on there, how you can come back to us and say, 'Would you be able to remove this graffiti for us?'" Gordon said.

Complete with $4 million over the span of two years, the Department of Public Works would clean up private properties too, once they opt in.

"It's going to be focused on neighborhood commercial corridors to really try to alleviate -- as the supervisor (San Francisco Supervisor Myrna Melgar) wanted to do -- a burden on property owners and business owners in those areas," she said.

This is welcome news to the worn-out entrepreneur.

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"Anything would help," Nguyen said.

The Board of Supervisors will vote again on this ordinance for final approval before going to the mayor for a final signature in early August.

If approved, the city is planning to have this program up and running by early fall.

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