What are your graffiti concerns for Ballard?

Graffiti has been an ongoing topic of discussion on MyBallard. We have written about taggers hitting the historic bell tower in Marvins Garden Park and vandals defacing the mural at Bergen Place. The old Sunset Bowl building was covered with spray paint and hate graffiti was scrawled across the sidewalk at Sunset Hill Park. Just this weekend, a forum topic was started about 10 to 15 cars being tagged in the neighborhood.

We are working with the Seattle Times and its news partners on a graffiti-related piece, so we’re putting some questions out to the masses: What are your thoughts on graffiti in Ballard? Where are the trouble spots? Do you see graffiti as a growing concern? What can be done to stop taggers? Post your thoughts in comments below or email us at tips@myballard.com.

Geeky Swedes

The founders of My Ballard

107 thoughts to “What are your graffiti concerns for Ballard?”

  1. Graffiti is simply the most visible, most difficult-to-ignore sign that Ballard is becoming a scummy, hellish dystopia filled with lowlifes and violent criminals. Thanks, visionaries.

  2. I think its awful. It should be enforced. Anyone who calls in who witnesses a defacement, they not have to leave their name, and the penalty for one who is the perpetrator, could be punished by working it off on removing it, or working on the highways picking up trash. This is done by people who have nothing to do. They feel entitled to do whatever they want. It lowers property values and is an expense for private property owners as well as the city. Its too long been unenforced.

  3. Absolutely, it's nothing more then artistic creativity by the lively Ballard scamps. As a matter of fact we should be providing them spray cans so they can express themselves at lower cost. Let's face it, the taxpayers can afford it. It's a financial burden to have to provide your own rattle cans. We should also provide them with a hot breakfast and lunch while they paint. Also at taxpayers expense. This Ballard after all.

    All of the will keep the little children's creative juices flowing!

  4. Those squiggly wiggly messes? It is vandalism – not art. What can be done about it is open to debate. The problem has gotten worse all over the USA.

  5. Local artist Saundra Valencia had a great program in the 90s called Street Smart Art. She took kids who had been caught doing graffiti and helped them direct their energies in more positive ways, painting murals. They did the ones on the approch to the Ballard Bridge, just north of 46th. Saundra moved on to other things, but I always thought her program was a good model.

  6. Graffiti can be art and artistic, and nobody should prefer the hole in the ground that the Sunset is now over the canvas that it provided for a few months.

    However, tagging is a waste of time and space by kids and teens trying to be cool and bad, and should be punished with community service starting with cleaning up their own mess.

  7. I don't think a light slap on the wrist of a day or two in jail is going to change their ways. And it seems nearly impossible to catch them. They tag and run. You might witness it happen but they are gone before anything can be done.

    Increase the penalty for the crime and/or put up cameras to deter the crime.

  8. Our neighborhood park was vandalized — primarily with graffiti. It started on a wall mural, and then moved to the playground. Unfortunately, most of the “tags” were foul words and foul language to describe body parts.

    The parks department was very responsive and came out to remove the graffiti within 24 hours. I'm hoping to get together a Friends of Webster Park group and am working with the city to track down if there are any existing groups.

    Perhaps we need to re/establish the ban of spray paint to minors.

  9. There is a lot of graffiti in Ballard, and it is very ugly and trashy looking. But the truth is Seattle in general is a fairly ugly and trashy looking city, outside of the wealthy neighborhoods. Its image of itself as a lovely and sophisticated place is quite in variance with reality. In southern California, a place Seattleites love to hate, there have long been aggressive graffiti suppression efforts that have kept it to a minimum in most places. I theorize that the suppresion of graffiti is somehow considered racist and classist by the squishes running the city.

  10. I own a brick commercial building in Ballard. It gets tagged now and again. We have it removed as quickly as possible, We use a local business that removes grafitti to take care of it for us, so no matter what, it gets cleaned up fast. We've also installed motion-activated lighting and removed some trees that provided cover. Both seemed to help. We are now cultivating a Boston ivy on the wall. Once the plant covers the wall, it won't be a “blank slate”. It's sad about the places that are getting tagged. Is there any way to involve these kids in something less destructive? And maybe even provide an outlet for their art? Some grafitti has a place, somewhere. Like what else was going to happen to the eyesore the Sunset Bowl became? Maybe the mural at Bergen Place needs some updating? I'd opt to take down the mural and the two by fours that are covering that nice old brick and plant a Boston Ivy on the wall. That would do the trick and besides, Boston ivy will never look dated. Imagine how beautiful it would be, especially in the fall months!

  11. “Maybe the mural at Bergen Place needs some updating? “

    What, is it too 'old timey'? Not hippity-hoppity enough for kids today?

  12. I propose city-issued paintball guns be handed out to responsible citizens, who then hunt the taggers.

    I imagine a punk walking up to my garage door, reach into his backpack for his can, hear rustling in the bushes behind him and decide to keep walking.

  13. Perhaps if there were more good public art being created by actual artists instead of the more common vulgar tagging any spastic three-year-old could do, graffiti would be more welcome in our community. Far as I can tell, most of it is visual defecation.

  14. i agree that it's bored kids that are probably doing this and it's a terrible eyesore. i wonder if the *kids* (age or mentally) are primarily from around here. if so, how would the parents feel about footing the bill if caught. would that make it right? graffiti enforcement and dog patrol on low man on the totem pole calls for spd. we can talk all we want and brainstorm but it's part of living in the city.

  15. I live in East Ballard off of 11th and 56th. Last week, a neighbor's lovely cedar fence was tagged with pink and white paint. It took her hours to get it off. Just Sunday, a property was painted off of 58th. One of the neighbors jumped on his motorbike to try to follw what he thought were two older boys, one chubby, the other slight. He lost them around 56th and Market. I agreed it is an eyesore, and most is nothing artistic. I like the idea of making them clean up their mess, but then provide them with a creative outlet like murals and other projects.

  16. Yes this is a on going problem and getting worse. I manage many buildings in Seattle and a couple in Ballard.I have pictures and video coverage of a tagger and no response by police. I know they have bigger fish to fry but they must be stopped. If we are to continue to be a community to be proud of please help us. Also a organisation called Compass alliance and also tied to the luthran church is to build a 7 story building at 1753 56th st and will house 80 homeless people. My hats off to them and there efforts to help and hopefully give people a way to get back on track in our society but I think the location is terrible. For the money spent on aquiring this lot would much better spent on vacant buildings on Leary that would be much more cost effective and not be a center piece in Ballard. I also feel taggings will increase and the alley way adjecent to this project will be unmangable.

  17. Public caning. Great idea. No. 1 rule: If your property gets tagged, wipe it off or paint over it as quickly as possible. Then the little punks can't admire their work.

  18. Hey kids, taggers, gangsta wanna-bees… remember that Karma is a bitch. You may think your tag is bad-ass and cool but in the end you just become that douche-bag everybody is talking about.

  19. Tagging in Ballard, by its very location, means it's being done by pu**ies. Seriously, if they went down to East Oakland to tag, I'd be impressed.

    What you're talking about here are wannabe gangstas, white kids. There's a derogatory word for them I'd love to use but would probably get my post deleted….begins with 'w', ends with 'az'.

    Bored children of old Ballard. You see them hanging out with the hobos on Ballard Commons. In ten years from now, if they are lucky, they'll be changing oil at a Jiffy Lube somewhere for a living.

  20. Graffiti happens when kids don't respect their community. I propose volunteer programs in local high schools: for school credit, kids can go out and clean up the neighborhood. Treat it like an elective, or as part of the curriculum for a general civics class.

    Also, juvenile offenders should be on the hook for that parks department “we will clean graffiti within 24 hours of a report” hotline.

  21. I propose creating a local community task-force by “employing” the local drunks to police the taggers by providing them with a 12-pack for every tagger they catch.

  22. Amy, glad to hear that Parks was resposive to the tags on the playground – the one the wall wasn't offensive (except for the fact that it covered a community mural) but was up for months (possibly while they tried to figure out if the mural could be cleaned/restored. I'd be interested in your efforts to form a Friends of Webster group, if you can contact me through the site adminstrators.

  23. “Ballard is becoming a scummy, hellish dystopia filled with lowlifes and violent criminals.”

    Is it really that bad in your eyes, Name? It must be awful for you.

  24. We live on a relatively busy street in Ballard and get tagged about every month or two, whether it's our fence (most likely), garage door, fire hydrant or side walk. It's a pain to deal with — some of it is the height of our fence and 8' wide and removing it with either a high pressure sprayer or painting over it both look awful. But I don't really know what can be done about it. The area is well-lit, and what makes us a target is the high visibility — lots of pedestrians and cars pass by so the vandals have an incentive in these areas.

  25. The squiggly-wiggly vandalism has gotten worse and it’s not art. It’s meant to be annoying and rebellious, which is hardly an original idea. What good is it? Does it help the community?

  26. I agree with bjb30, there should be a distinction made between 'tagging' and graffiti, while both are uninvited expressions, the motivation is entirely different and have to be addressed differently.

    I own a commercial building in the 'hot zone' of East Balllard near the fast food joints, and had to once spend an entire Sunday removing swastikas and racist tags from my building. It probably took all of 10 minutes to create.

  27. I noticed you use the qualifier “can” be art. I see what passes for graffiti around here and it ain't art. It's the same crap over and over and it's not even done well from a technical standpoint. I don't think any of these kids understand the difference between tagging and graffiti, and the ones that think they do have no skill and no creativity.

  28. I can't remember where the park was, but was told of the policy that went something like this… First time there is graffiti in the skatepark it gets closed for one day to clean it. Second time, two days. Third time, three days. By the fourth and final time the skaters were a very good resource on preventing graffiti and reporting who the taggers were.
    The real skaters around here have something better to do, as in skate, and getting good at it takes a lot of time.

  29. If the city treated each tag as a legal signature, then they'd be able to automatically claim all previous instances of it as belonging to the tagger they catch.
    The crews that go out to clean it up can either take a digital picture or log the tag for when they eventually catch the tagger. Charging $100 to $500 per instance would be a fair penalty to cover the clean up. Add in an incentive for a tips line and you could cut tagging in half in a month.

  30. The TUBS building at NE 50th ad Roosevelt Way is am example of what can happen when the painting gets out of control. I'd guess that building is some kind of free wall.

  31. Wow…what a great way to involve the whole community…How about including a booth that sells Scandanavian delights as well. They might recognize some grandkids or friends and turn them in to the task force. Everybody wins!

  32. it is a mess but there is some pretty interesting art there too. What I think sucks is that in the past tagging a mural, graffiti or otherwise (aka cheeseball historical scene?), was off limits. Now taggers scrawl their idiot signatures right over anything, even carefully executed art.

  33. There's creativity, and then there's tagging: i.e. pissing on something to claim territory (heh, as IF).

    If the compulsion to scrawl one's ID in a wall seems to come from below. I am confident that if one were to place next on each highly targeted wall a sign stating, Small dic competition! Biggest tag wins. Special “Floppy Weiner” prize for the tag most seen around town.

  34. Anyone see that scene in Naked Gun where the scientist guy was testing a wall that, when spray painted, would spray paint back on the taggers.

  35. My family has been in Ballard since 1898. Crime has never been new to Ballard. Each generation has their issues. After 200 years of my family living here, I am ready to leave, I am the last. Which I know the new comers to Ballard love to see us leave.
    As far as the leather ass-chap wearing raiders. They are not here if they were, graffiti would be non-existent.
    Please enjoy the community we built and respect it.

  36. Addresses on buildings would be helpful. The building next to Hill Machine on Leary and 17th doesn't have to clean up the graffiti as there is no visable address.

    The people at the graffiti hotline say they can't do anything about it since I don't know the address (when I call it in and tell them the cross streets). I say, “so, they get to keep the graffiti on the building because there is no address???”…yes…

  37. I hate the graffiti! I agree – becoming a big eye sore and problem for Ballard. Too many humans trying to co-exist – not enough care and planning for the neighborhoods. No one seems to clean it up quickly or take it serious. If you look like you don't care – you probably don't and it makes me sad for Ballard and my family.

  38. Hey! Henry is an ARTIST. Leave him out of this. That is NOT graffiti. He does beautiful murals. His art is delightful and full of happiness, and love, and his artwork has improved Ballard.

  39. Sorry, I would love to love Henry, but I don't see how the average high school sophomore with a B in art could not turn one of those Henrys out. I think lowering the standard to “whatever people pay to paint on a wall is a mural” is encouraging kids to blur the line between tagging and artistic expression. The “graffiti aesthetic” (for lack of a better term) used on murals at some walls in Belltown, like Vain Salon and near 1st and [Wall, I think?], in tht paring lot – somehow I think this glorifies spraypainting on large visible outdoor surfaces.

    Banksy is brilliant. He might have gotten his start this way, but chidish scrawling of one's signature is like saying mud pies are haute cuisine.

  40. if the kid is not emancipated (not sure what the age in seattle is) the parents are still responsible for them. have the kids pay the parents back. insurance policies for stupid kids anyone?

  41. Oh, OK. He's not my favorite muralist, either. But–he's out there doing it. The painting that goes up on the wall is worth more than the one no-one paints.

    Myself, I think of the original anarchist graffitti in NYC. That *was* art (and the original “writers” only did them on government and corporate property.) But tagging is just a problem. I don't *believe* the amount of street crime we have here.

  42. Right-0! I think it started to make me mad when someone tagged over some 1900s advertising on one of the great old brick walls here.. Of course now…. there's an ethical question – I mean, it WAS advertising – hence, “The Man”. In fact, probably for tobacco! Funny how those old murals for flour are charming now, but back then it was just like the visual noise of Aurora Ave.

    Anyhoo, maybe one day we can collaborate of something!

  43. So, we should welcome our new tagger overlords, and just STFU? Nobody should grouse (or do anything) about conditions in Ballard until things here resemble the worst parts of Port au Prince? That sounds like a guarantee that they will…

  44. There are many Ballard citizens working to make the community a better place to live and on the other side are the vandals. The vandalism doesn’t inform or improve the community at all. It’s a waste of time without any positive attributes.

  45. Ya, the glass scratching is terrible. It's on the metro buses and almost every store front window along Phinney Ridge has the scrawl of some nitwit. You can't read what it is, but yet some fool had to scratch the windows.

  46. I come from a place where it was illegal to buy spray paint in the county without some kind of permit, which I assumed had to do with being in the construction trade. I found it amazingly easy to live without the luxury of buying spray paint neasr by, and it cut the graffiti way down.

    It was so natural to me that when I saw the row of spray paint at Fred Meyer, it gave me pause.

    I have no idea if it is a truly effective solution, but I would imagine there is data out there that the city could benchmark. Just a thought.

  47. I think the community needs to differentiate between graffiti and gang tagging. I think it would be easy to identify between the two and deal with accordingly. Teens attempting art through vandalism and gang presence related tagging are two different things.

    Two years ago, I noticed several teens in obvious gang outfits in Fremont, Balllard, and Crown Hill. I looked the outfits up on the Internet and they were “Bloods”. They were around for about 2 months and then they were gone. I guess, based on their age, that they were initiates staking out territory. I would guess Ballard still has a gang presence, although less so obvious. Yet the tagging seems to conclude they are still here.

    We need to ward out crime as much as possible to develop a better community.

  48. Isn't the term “art” subjective? Does it necessarily require “skill” to do or create something someone finds visually stimulating? I am not sticking up for graffiti, but I think that when you attack the use of the word “art,” you are on shaky ground.

    Meanwhile, I have to say that I have some shots of graffiti here in Ballard that actually made me smile (a flock of white doves on a plain gray building in an alley, for instance), and so I agree that graffiti can be art.

    The tagging, however, is not “art” that I appreciate. It just reminds me of when my dog “tags” a patch of grass or a stump, and every time I see either, I hear those seagulls in Finding Nemo: “Mine”

  49. I grew up with one of those kids in my neighborhood. His wannabe status didn't deter him from defacing property all over town. I'm fairly certain he wouldn't have cared what the adults/homeowners/taxpayers thought regarding whether he had true street cred or not as he was tagging their mailboxes, fences, etc. And I think it's of little consolation to those folks that he's not living a rich and comfortable life now.

  50. I doubt this is the work of gangs. I agree with the rest of the commenters that these are most likely just wannabees and punks with nothing constructive distracting them from mischief.

  51. The first thing that needs to happen is STOP POSTING PICTURES of the graffiti. Describe the trouble spots or blur the graffiti on the pictures. These idiots do this for attention and posting pictures is free advertising.

    The second thing is immediate removal. If graffiti is removed as soon as possible, word gets around and the vandals won't waste their energy on a particular fence or wall if they know it will just be covered up the next day. So, how do you deal with that? Volunteer group maybe? Any volunteers?

  52. A sunset can be visually stimulating but it's not art. In theory an assemblage of tags could be visually stimulating to some, but it's not art.
    Although an intentional act to create something visually stimulating is possible using spraycans, paint pens, and such, these taggers and “graf art kids” aren't doing that. They are instead doing what your dog does, marking territory to inflate one's idea of self worth at everyone else's expense.

  53. A picture of the same sunset is art. A painting of that sunset is art. The point is that it's an intentional act to create something visually stimulating, and graffiti is often that. Not always, I agree, which is why I said what I said about marking territory.

    And since you acknowledge my point about tagging, there's really no point to argue. You know, you don't have to respond just to respond. You can just let it go.

  54. The parents have it. The over 18 crowd would still be haunted by it if they didn't pay, but the real point is the deterrent. Right now there are little to no consequences for a kid if he gets caught. Worst case he goes in front of a judge who gives him a pre trial diversion or the kid's parents pay $50 to have that one tag scrubbed off. The incorrigible kids won't care, but the tag alongs and friends would think twice before going “bombing”.

  55. I think that fines are an off-hand option, standard fare. I think the parents will be burdened with this fine, and it will do nothing to keep the kid from doing anything similar in the future. I think kids that are tagging aren't the kids that are afraid of their parents' wrath. Moreover, there's no way an 18 year old punk is going to “be haunted” by a $50 fine. Not a chance.

    There are far better/more effective measures mentioned in this comment base.

  56. I'm curious where you've seen graffiti in Ballard that qualified as art. I haven't seen anything worth the cost of the stolen paint used.
    The “pieces” are always the same goofy bubble letters that were overused in the early 80's. Derivative drivel by kids aping styles they don't even understand.

  57. If he has to pay the fine to get his car registered, or attend UW, or get any job affiliated with the city, it would haunt him.
    Short of ignoring the tagging, what do you propose?

  58. Yeah, I think even a little step like requiring an ID and logging the information would cut it down somewhat similarly to the pharmacy requirements for some cold medication that was used to make meth.

  59. i'm not so sure that the kids tagging are ones that own a care or are attending college. different crowd and the one i just referred to will have parents that will stand up on court for them. enabling? uh, yeah.

  60. Amy,
    I remove offensive graffiti for free. I have a local graffiti removal company based in Green Lake. If it is racist, homophobic, gang related or extreme offensive graffiti, I will volunteer my business to remove it at no cost. If you need any help please let me know.

  61. brandonwright206–Thanks, I will keep you in mind next time they tag the brick at my chiropractic office. 'course, last time I paid someone to clean the graffiti off the brick, I got more graffiti less than a week later…

    SPG–The graffiti hotline woman was very clear that if I did not have the exact address, then, forget it. Graffiti gets to stay. I did drive around that little block (Leary, 17th ave NW, NW 48th and Ballard ave NW) but could not figure out where that building belongs. I looked on google maps as well. OK, I give up…no address, graffiti stays.

  62. So, then just escalate the fines. Even wealthy enabler parents will eventually start paying attention if the fines escalate quickly and steeply.

  63. Gotta love the automatic jump to the extremes that the internets provide. I don't think that BM or BB are saying to STFU, but just that we should keep it in perspective. Yes it's a nuisance, yes it's ugly, yes we should do something about it, but no, it's not the worst thing that can possibly happen.

  64. You all have got to be kidding me. First you were comparing Ballard to Fremont, which you called a “ghetto.” Now you're claiming it to be a “hellish dystopia” full of “violent criminals?” Seriously?! Have you ever been in a ghetto? Or, for that matter, experienced any sort of prejudice of any kind?? You're revealing you're privilege.
    Graffiti is a mostly unattractive nuisance. And it is a serious problem if people's *cars* are being tagged. But honestly, to call Ballard a “dystopia” is incredibly exaggerative.

  65. Are you volunteering? Because if you are you stand apart from most Ballardites here, who seem outstandingly willing to sit back and grouse until their fingers bleed.

Leave a Reply