It may be an isolated incident gone wrong, or could be yet another new form of emerging petty crime, that “more than 100 people" thoroughly tagged a Mission District corner’s storefronts and vacant buildings Friday night.
It’s by no means unusual for there to be tagging on Mission Street. What is unusual is a coordinated group of “more than 100” taggers going at it in the same spot, as KPIX reports that a graffiti flash mob coated the block of 18th and Mission Streets Friday night, in what now appears to have been a coordinated effort, as seen in the video below.
MOB VANDALISM IN THE MISSION— Betty Yu (@BettyKPIX) February 7, 2022
Video shows a mob of people spraying graffiti over a building and sidewalks on 18th near Mission St. Friday.
A business owner says 100+ people showed up to the organized "spray paint party" & tagged the block, including a parklet and storefronts. pic.twitter.com/gC79Oxnxgs
The tweet above from KPIX’s Betty Yu refers to an “organized ‘spray paint party,’” and apparently one unnamed small business on 18th Street did cop to organizing a Friday night event. The owner of that unnamed business reportedly “told KPIX 5 that Friday’s event did get out-of-hand and stemmed from an ‘art show’ it hosted,” and that “The owner said that she helped clean up the mess.” KPIX adds that nearby residents claim that particular business “not only allegedly sells spray paint and art supplies to the vandals, but they said it promotes such gatherings.”
KPIX does not disclose which building is being tagged in the video, but SFist assessed the scene and can confirm that the building shown is a very large vacant building at the southeast corner of Mission and 18th Streets (right across the street from Duc Loi Supermarket, next door to Gracias Madre). That building has certainly drawn its share of street artists' wheat-paste posters over the years, but this mass tagging was something of a much different nature.
As of Monday morning, the owner of that vacant building has painted gray over the lion’s share of the graffiti. Yet the sidewalk still shows signs of graffiti mayhem, and plenty of fresh drips from a very recent paint-over job.
But plenty of other storefronts on the block were also hit. Parklets at 18th Street restaurants Ramenwell and Balompie Cafe still have a ton of visible graffiti, despite clean-up efforts that are not yet complete.
And the Mission Street-facing windows at Duc Loi Supermarket are freshly and badly tagged, yet its 18th Street-facing windows (between Mission and Valencia Streets) are simultaneously spotless. Friday’s night’s mass tagging seems to have mostly been limited to 18th Street storefronts, between Mission and South Van Ness.
Most of the mess is cleaned up as of Monday morning. The mural-style “good tagging” on the street, which had been there previously and clearly was applied with a higher degree of artistic skill, does not appear to have been defaced much. What did get tagged appears to have been touched up since.
But it is the business owners who are on the hook for the cleanup efforts.
“It’s really unfortunate, we have so many small businesses that are struggling to recover,” SF Small Business Commission president Sharky Laguana told KPIX. “They’ve had one punch after another with the pandemic, a second wave and a third wave. And on top of that they have to deal with what I think is clearly an uptick in vandalism and graffiti.”
This was traditionally a double-whammy for small businesses, because they had to pay for cleanup out of their own pockets, plus they were subject to fines from the city. The Mission’s supervisor Hillary Ronen passed legislation a year ago to suspend graffiti fines for businesses, and that remains in effect. KPIX says that “the Board of Supervisors is discussing the possibility of bringing back fines,” but actually, the way the legislation is written says that those fines will remain suspended “until 90 days after the expiration of the Mayor’s Emergency Proclamation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.” Honestly… will that day ever come?
There appears a distinct possibility that this was a freak one-off event — organized by a small business and meant to jazz up the appearance of an unsightly vacant eyesore on their block — and things got out of control. Or it could be that taggers have taken a page from the sideshow drivers and are now organizing large meetups and events. If the taggers organized it, we may have to worry this practice will be duplicated. If a business organized it and saw things go wrong, well, there will likely be some tension between a few small business owners on 18th Street.
Images: Joe Kukura, SFist