Tomorrow Graffiti clean up at Toxic Tire Beach… please read…


Warm Water Cove AKA Toxic Tire Beach

OK. So as many of you know the Mayor of SF, Gavin Newsome has a project called operation Green Connect. It’s about improving our parks. That sounds great. They are going to go to Toxic Tire Beach tomorrow and white wash all the artwork. Why? Because graffiti is a crime. Please read the email back and forth with Fred Abadi. I challenge them to leave a mural. Lets see what they say. The work day is tomorrow, Saturday at 9:00 AM. They are providing lunch. I don’t know that there is really anything we can do. We could go down there and look sad, but I don’t really see the point. I would like to be kept in the loop if anyone is doing anything else. Let me know.


Here is the exchange, read from the bottom…

I’m a homeowner in SF. I pay taxes. I run a business. But I must say that the choice of things to ‘improve’ is in question. If I didn’t know any better, I would say that there was a group think happening that the powers that be would prefer the artists of SF to go away. Bit by bit, the machine is making SF impossible to enjoy. You guys are gonna go paint over artwork that makes that place magical. Because that’s what you think is the right thing to do. No matter if I brought thousands of people down there tomorrow, you would defend your actions and the law. You would insist that you were right. You would point out that there is some process that you could sink some time into, but your too late now. Because you think that that place needs to be beautified. We disagree. We like it just like it is. You likely think that getting rid of this graffiti is somehow gonna improve the crime rate. The murder rate. Hell, you’d probably say that if you like the graffiti the terrorists have won. Your contribution to the park, in our opinion, won’t do a lick to make it more safe. And it will make it in-hospitable to us. But there is no mechanism in place for you to do anything else. So this is what you do. I understand. I don’t blame you, actually. I’m sure you do your job well. I guess in my utopia… ‘MY” San Francisco… graffiti is a crime unless it’s stunning. But I understand that in order to do that there would need to be an art critic. And nobody likes a critic.

So I guess in the end I don’t really understand what process is available to me that would be effective. Although you may not notice this, or see this as bad… this is actually a step towards all the people in that community leaving. Clean up the park, put in the 3rd street rail, in comes the fancy coffee shop, up go the rents, 4 years of construction of hideous condos, nowhere to park… everyone who lived there gets their little check to go on their way and they are all out of SF. It’s all that simple to us. So the way we see it, you guys are gonna go raise the rents in the dogpatch tomorrow. And the funny thing is that you guys likely have a completely different opinion of what you’re doing and what’s gonna happen. I understand. But if you were me and the reason you moved here and invested in this city was being corrupted and your entire network of people… this amazing, fragile eco-system of art…. was literally being forced out. Well you’d write a letter asking if there was any tolerance or room for the idea that your gonna eliminate works of art tomorrow.

I wonder if we could just save one of the murals. Just a measure of respect that we do like art. Just to champion the idea that painting over works of art, although executed without permission, is still damaging to the soul. I wonder if we couldn’t bring people together instead of rip them apart. We could do that. You could say to paint over all but one, and then make a date in a month to paint over that one, just to show that if you write letters to the city, that real people answer and are sensitive and responsive and want to help and would like other people to get involved. That would get people from my community involved. Maybe someone would spearhead a mural project, and get funding and permission. Maybe it will encourage people to use the park more, and share in it’s stewardship. Or maybe you’ll write me back on Monday and tell me that although you’d like to help me, you’ve got a job to do.

So I’m make it more interesting. I’ll commit to getting 50 people to help on another Project Green Connect (after Sept 15th) if you leave one mural. Just one. Not forever, just for like another month. Just to show faith that there is wiggle room and that each and everything doesn’t have to be by the book, inflexible & boring. I will commit to these 50 people, and have a list of them in your mailbox 48 hours after you agree to the terms. I have just under 100 emails in my box.

I enthusiastically await your response.

Chicken John, mission art guy candidate for mayor of San Francisco 2007

Chicken John
San Francisco, California

On Aug 3, 2007, at 10:19 AM, Goldstone, Merle wrote:

Re: The Difference between Art and Graffiti is Permission

We received your message opposing the cleanup of Warm Water Cove graffiti. We respectfully disagree with the idea that this graffiti is public art; it is vandalism.

The legal definition of graffiti vandalism is any person who defaces, damages or destroys property that is not his or her own with paint or any liquid (California Penal Code 594). The graffiti at Warm Water Cove was done without permission from the property owners, whether it is the Port of San Francisco, which owns the park or the owners of the surrounding buildings, whose walls and fences have been defaced. It is therefore considered to be graffiti and the City is required by statute to have it removed.

The Department of Public Works and the Port of San Francisco are working closely with Warm Water Cove businesses and property owners, as well as with members of the community, who want to remove the graffiti and make the park clean, safe and hospitable for community use.

If artists wish to play a role in the beautification of Warm Water Cove Park, they have to respect the public space and ask for permission to put artwork in the park or on private walls. If people continue to graffiti the park and private property walls, the graffiti will be removed and they will risk being arrested and prosecuted.

The second phase of the planning process for Warm Water Cove Park will include community input. We encourage you to be come involved in this planning process, if you wish to have a voice in the beautification and stewardship of the park.

Fred V. Abadi Monique Moyer
Director of Public Works Executive Director
Port of San Francisco

Hey there. This Saturday you guys are doing a clean up at warm water cove. My community is going balistic. I’m kinda getting flooded with email of people trying to figger out what they can do to stop you from eliminating all that art work. I wonder if there isn’t anything we could say or do to that end? Short of us comming down there and making a scene or whatever that seems like a waste of everyone’s time… I just thought I could drop you a note and see if, indeed, you do see the difference between someone tagging on the wall of someone’s home and the amazing artwork at warm water cove… which will always be called toxic tire beach. We’ve been using that space for over a decade. It’s a great venue. We’ve had circus shows, bands, dance performance… all for free all for fun. What may look unsafe or an eyesore to you is beautiful to us.

any ideas? Or is it all “Graffiti is a crime” standard pitch?

Just checking….

chicken john, mission art guy


Chicken John
San Francisco, California


36 Responses to “Tomorrow Graffiti clean up at Toxic Tire Beach… please read…”

  1. 1 Corbet Grifith

    Screw these guys… hope they dig all the fucking tires out of the bay too. And clean the green slime…. And pick up all the leftover concrete. And clean up every shred of glass and rusted metal before they paint over the art. Fuckers.


    Corbett Griffith

  2. 2 Rico

    Dear Chicken and Book-toting Toadies:

    The usual attempts to whitewash urban blight (which I happen to like better than the usual gentrification bullshit). Except this time, they mean it literally.

    Is San Francisco a place where real, important, and meaningful change happens to make people’s lives better? Is it a place that encourage art and artists, funk and funkiness, the eccentric as well as the sublime? A place that looks for clever and novel solutions to misery? I always thought it was. In fact, that is what drew me to the Bay Area after a childhood lived in the dullness of Southern California. Behold! I said to myself, here is a place where the unique is honored, the eccentric is revered, where difference is accepted.

    But maybe this place is like every other, where graffiti is fought as vandalism, any funkiness is treated as an aberration, and money rules the game? Is San Francisco slowly succumbing to the ever-expanding bland sameness conquering the cultural uniqueness of every neighborhood, Starbucks by Starbucks, Borders by Borders?

    Blech. No thank you. Give me some dirt in the corners, a real city with history and character and stories and art. And you can have all of the well-meaning scrubbers of public surfaces and spaces.

    I’ve heard of Mayor Newsom’s legendary jaunts through this neighborhood and that, change that, fix this, paint that. I guess that’s admirable to have someone who cares, or at least cynically cares about getting votes. Though it would be ever more swell to have someone who took the time to understand the cultural context beneath the city he works to make sparkling clean. And it would be better yet to have him surrounded by a bunch of folks who asked questions and sought thoughtful solutions rather than being yes-men to a man they hope might be a presidential hopeful in 2012.


  3. Thanks so much, Chicken, for throwing your hat in. I’ve been documenting the art on these walls for over three years, and it breaks my heart to see the art become the target of government-sponsored vandalism.

    I’ll be collecting more words and links on this topic over on the grafarc blog. Please keep me posted with updates.

  4. 4 shu

    Hey Chicken John,
    I do make murals. And I’m pretty sure that if it’s done with
    permission of the owner of the wall or whatever it’s on it can be
    legally protected. That’s probably not the case. But maybe something
    can be done from that angle. Especially if the inhabiting community
    speaks up, and voices their fondness of the way things are. Because
    after all the city is supposed to look out for the people interest,
    not the other way around.

    But if that fails, maybe my friend at Precita Eyes can organize
    something…. maybe some artists from the dog patch neighborhood can
    be nominated, selected locally (by residents within the area) And get
    work. It may take a couple of month but it maybe worth it in the long
    run. Outside people can come and put up a good mural, but it’d be
    much more personal to have people that live there do it.

  5. 5 astro

    1. Hmm, taking photo before it all disappears might be
    good to keep for using later on.

    2. With a focused group of artists mural painting can
    be done even in a day or two. Paint on day 1, and then
    put on a clear coat day 2.

    3. But yeah, the funny thing is that graffiti artist
    are much better at doing things fast.
    Partly because many of them work under pressure to
    crank things out… before some one finds them, or
    worse gets chased down by a group of gangs.

    4. BM/GreenMan is upon us… it may be tough to
    organize right now…

  6. 6 velori

    this is sad, i love that place…i recently have been displaying my artwork on the street, one of my favorite places to set up was where the old gap was on haight st. where “amaze” did a huge tag covering the whole ex-buisness, i loved the seeing the gap gone covered with yellow and red…its gone now,,,watched them scrape it off,,,musta took a long time…ever since then i’ve been constatly hasseled by cops about displaying my art work in legit-open-to-the- public spaces…but im still doing it everyday,,,fuk ’em…i cant really tell anyone what to do,,,excepy maybe think of it as ” a new canvas”…

  7. 7 josh wilson

    Dear Ms. Rocha,

    I read with interest your article about the graffiti conflict at Warm Water Cove. Thank you for looking into the issue.

    First of all, it’s worth noting that Mohammad Nuru, the Deputy Director of the Department of Public Works responsible for this campaign, is the same man, appointed by Willie Brown, who destroyed the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners. As the former executive director of SLUG, he gained notoriety for turning that local gardening program into a street-sweeping project that used its charges to illegally put up posters for the Brown campaign.

    This is the man charged with the care of our public spaces and cultural resources? Why is he even still in office, let alone piloting an anti-graffiti-art campaign?

    As a music fan, I have been attending “unauthorized” concerts at Warm Water Cove, (also known as Tire Beach, Concrete Beach and Toxic Beach) for more than ten years. I usually ride my bicycle out there for the chance to see local bands cut loose in safe, responsible but energetic performances in an otherwise hostile landscape.

    I find it enormously hypocritical of the new neighbors of the district to suddenly take issue with graffiti and “unpermitted” musical performances, when they are also in the immediate vicinity of some of the most toxic and polluted sites in San Francisco — and indeed the entire Bay Area.

    With the aging and polluting PG&E plant nearby causing record rates of asthma among the youth and children of Bayview-Hunters Point, with the radioactive waste of the Hunters Point shipyward literally simmering belowground, the city and its latest batch of carpetbagging NIMBYs are suddenly up in arms about graffiti artists and unpermitted bands?

    Putting aside the part about art needing a permit to happen anywhere — a concept I personally find fascistic — this clearly demonstrates and racist and classist bent to the development in the neighborhood.

    As a matter of fact, the Islais Creek Park, which was built and maintained entirely by the people living in the area, was paved over and plowed under by the Third Street development project several years ago. You can learn more about it here:

    If the city and the new community members of Third Street are so concerned with the well-being of their neighborhood, why did they permit the paving-over of the Islais Creek Park, which provided educational and stewardship opportunities to the local kids, as well as habitat for endangered species such as the Pacific Chorus Frog?

    The anti-graffiti/anti-public art crusade targeting Tire Beach and the vicinity is a foolish waste of resources and energy that creates a divisive spirit, hypocritically ignores the community-building and beautification work of the existing community, criminalizes legitimate creative expression — particularly by youth — and does NOTHING to solve the real health, economic and environmental problems of the area.

    A real solution would actively engage the graffiti artists and musicians in a dialogue about Warm Water Cove, and create a stewardship plan overseen and implemented by those same artists and musicians.

    They are, in fact, among the only people who have shown any care at all for that little, abandoned patch of ground — they, and the ignored, longtime residents of the surrounding districts.

    Way to go San Francisco. Congratulations on another empty gesture that amounts to little more than more polish for the gold dome of City Hall at the expense of our communities and local culture.

    Josh Wilson
    San Francisco, CA

  8. 8 michael

    Hey Chicken….

    Get someone out there with a good digital camera and document the art work as best as possible. Then contact the guys at, post the pictures and some text, and help keep the issues alive.

    My own feeling is that most graffiti, and most of what citizens are aware of, is not much more than unimaginative tagging. Seeing what’s on is a great education on how good the art can be. Educating the masses is a sisyphean task. But educating politicians and invigorating civic authorities is easier. And that’s the leverage.

    First, get them to accept the art. SF’s mission has great murals, new and old; what was Diego Rivera, but a well-paid graffiti artist? They’ll also recognize anything they’d consider a legitimate process and something that gets their faces on the papers (or the electronic equivalent).

    I think the art at Toxic Tire Beach is doomed, but it’s always been transient by nature. Trying to keep it on life support undermines the vitality of the expression. I think the space needs public art — but not that Oldenberg crap. It needs something that comes out of the community and honors the people that kept the beach alive by holding circuses and events there.

    So, my suggestion is to get people together from the community to work together to put something in place that is alive, not sterile, and that will live and change. Otherwise the city will end up with another sterile Star*uck’ed environment.

  9. 9 phx

    nicely written, especially the last two paragraphs. I wonder if they know about the two 50 gallon drums resting inside a caved in pier near Kelly’s Mission Rock that have been painted to look like campel soup cans. I have to work tomorrow, I’ll be taking an oil barge out to one of the ships in anchorage just off of where you’d be gathering, probably around 8:30-9am. Will try to make a show of support with a horn or otherwise. Be sure and point out that even the heartless capitalists peddling the 400,000 gallons of oil to the ship that pays its underage filipino workers with a bowl of rice and a Fanta Orange are in solidarity with the artists. If you end up going that is.

  10. 10 rusty

    You should start the “Warmwater Cove Users Association”, like all those other stupid neighborhood associations, and list all the “members” who use that park and how the city is not listening to the users of the park.

  11. 11 steven raspa

    Interesting you bring this point up. I am going to help clean up, but also had concerns when they mentioned wanting to paint over graffiti. I have no problem paiting over individual signature tags on benches and tables, but I already decided that if they asked me or anyone from Burning Man to paint over a wall mural, we were not going to do it. I will speak with them about this.

    I’m going mostly to just MOOP and help the Dogpatch Community and Port clean up a little in the spirit of goodwill, as this is the BM HQ neighborhood association partly involved.

    – $

  12. 12 robin commer

    we should do a really nice ‘ vote for chicken john ‘ mural on it. that would be hilarious.. — R-

  13. 13 some guy

    this kind of graffiti “cleanup” has been burning my ass for years. so if you have enough money you can put advertising graffiti up and no one gets to complain, but if you do gorgeous wall-sized art, your a vandal. fuck that.

    you should make a stink about it now while you have their attention. why not send your exchange to the chronicle or some such? or write a little essay about it and give it to them. it’s bullshit and the discourse needs to be in the public domain.

    just two cents here.

  14. 15 smooove

    Hey there chicken john…

    What comes to mind in this situation is the parallel to the murals in the mission. Now, we see them as venerated art works that tells stories of the neighborhood, the culture, and (for lack of a better term) the joie de vivre of the mission. But if we look back a few decades ago, they were seen as graffiti. I think the community (and I use that in the royal sense…) should avail upon the mission mural project and ask for assistance in helping turn the City’s view point from seeing graf as something that needs to be white washed over (hmm, term kinda makes you think…) and as a real, actual art form that is deserved of being preserved and encouraged.

    But hey what do I know? I’m just a DJ that likes to stay up all night playing loud electronic dance music. And in the eyes of the SFPD I’m a criminal as well.

    DJ Smoove.

    PS, I miss Dr. Hal.

  15. 16 monkeylush

    Hi. I helped clean up today, and I painted over the graffiti. I’d like to offer a little input from this end.

    The art IS beautiful. It’s gorgeous. I hesitated in painting over it.

    But, this is property, and those people who get to the point where they can afford property in this city (and yes, some of them did work their way up), should have that property respected. More importantly, though, with the graffiti, the park is only open to one subset of the community.

    I know that you feel that this was open and of free use to all, but the fact is that when we looked back on it again, I saw something that would actually entice the people of Dogpatch to use the space. There was a large group of dogpatch residents there, and they were all very respectful of the art. Painting over it has to be done to make the point that it should be done within the context of not destroying private property.

    There was a young man there today who was part of a foundation fellowship working with SPUR to plan what should be done with the area. I suggest that all of you talk to him as he is leading the effort to create whatever this place will be. Some of the suggestions today were to fill in the gross marshy waste area and add a graffiti art center where graffiti would be celebrated, allowed, and graffiti artists could lead workshops teaching youth how to do some of the same art.

    I know this is not what you want, but I do think it’s a step in the right direction. The whitewashing is done…outside of redoing it all, there’s not much that can be done in that arena. But you CAN work to get what you want to happen there in the future. Contact SPUR and let them know you’d like the email of the fellow who’s working on Warm Water Cove. Offer your input in a constructive way, and you just might get something that all parties can live with.


  16. Well I’m glad to hear that you have some rock solid solutions for us.

    It’s just not good enough for me. Once it all goes one way, it never comes back. They declared war on an art form. War. Like there isn’t enough war as it is.

    I just think that they could have cleaned the park and planted flowers and left some of the murals. And they could have. But they didn’t. And you painted over art. That’s what I got.

  17. Monkeylush, thanks for representing a shade of grey in this all too often black-and-white debate. I understand your reasoning up to a point, but you said one thing that I really don’t understand:

    “with the graffiti, the park is only open to one subset of the community. I know that you feel that this was open and of free use to all, but the fact is that when we looked back on it again, I saw something that would actually entice the people of Dogpatch to use the space.”

    This is a view that I’ve heard a few other times, but it doesn’t make sense to me. I would love it if you could try to articulate it in more detail.

    Are you saying that the presence of big, colorful murals on a wall somehow acts as a deterrent to ordinary people being willing to visit the park? Are you saying that a blank wall painted a uniform shade of dark green is enticing?

    How would you describe the “subset” of people who are not frightened by colorful murals? And on the flip side: how would you characterize the folks who are enticed by blank green walls?

  18. 19 Oliver Morgan

    Few in the graffiti community actually care about this action. Tire beach was a ‘Chill Spot’ where writers could spend a little extra time to try new things and bust a sick piece. Sure, people got arrested there all the time, but it was (and will be again, despite the Big Brother cameras that are going in there) a little safer than the street, where real graffiti will always exist. Any wall that is legal, or ‘allowed’ as an earlier posted suggested, is called a mural, it’s not graffiti. Graffiti IS vandalism, It’s a distinction few outside the community get. The real graffiti will continue unabated on the streets, where it was born. Don’t stress out over this paper tiger action. We know the truth.

  19. 20 Tad

    Randomly here, and bit drunk, so forgive any errors that follow… I was sad to see the graffiti go. It’s an irredeemably disgusting park that is only made interesting by the fringe folks who use it, those being the bands, the RV owners, and of course the artists. But if you want to see the “subset” of people who are frightened by the murals, you ought to check out the comment boards on sfgate. They’re depressing, certainly, but the volume of erroneous thinking on graffiti is so substantial that it needs to be addressed rather than ridiculed. Some things going on there…

    1. A lot of people assume that all graffiti is gang-related. One person wonders how long they and their family can stay in that park before they will be assaulted by a gang-member. Anyone who has known proficient graffiti artists or gang members will know that both of these ideas are asinine. How can people be educated away from these ideas?

    2. A lot of people suggest that graffiti artists give out their home addresses so that people can come deface their property; part of some tit-for-tat retaliation, it would be assumed. A more apt analogy might involve the graffiti artist giving out the address of a polluted industrial wasteland near their house. There are different types of public space, certainly, and perhaps Warm Water Cove park could only exist as it did because it had so much going against it. The “warm water,” it’s been pointed out, is so much effluvia from the PG+E plant. The park is grassless, without amenities, and is a ways away from any beaten path. That the clean-up interests touted it as a “jewel” and lauded its “spectacular views of the East Bay hills” is simple idiocy. If the graffiti had been taken down as part of much, much more dramatic improvement effort, perhaps there wouldn’t be so much outcry. Or perhaps the outcry might be more tempered. But as it is, paint is being taken down in lieu of blatant pollution being cleaned up, and drabness is being actively, righteously, chosen over pretty. Anyone with half their senses intact who visits the park today, graffiti-less though it might be, would be right to call the park a disgusting mess, because it is a disgusting mess, because it’s a scrubby brown mess at the end of a trash-lined street in the middle of muddy cove filled with tires and shopping carts and industrial runoff. A stranger who knew nothing of the conflict happening now would know better than to call the park a “jewel.” They would note that the East Bay hills are, in fact, quite obstructed by a power plant and a warehouse complex.

    3. The legality issue gets brought up a lot, and that’s a tougher one to fight. It’s a bit unsatisfying to point out all the illegal things that are done everyday by everyone. It’s also unsatisfying to point out the increasingly accepted “legitimacy” of well-executed graffiti. These arguments are unsatisfying because they do not penetrate. What arguments will?

    By putting the park in the condition it is now in, they essentially threw away the baby but kept its bathwater. I applaud those first brave souls who take whatever steps to make this shithole funny again.

  20. There is a good round up of links on this topic at the Graffiti Archeology blog:

    I’ve created a Yahoo discussion group so that the graffiti appreciating community can consolidate communication and organize a response:

    It sounds like a compromise is possible. We should show up and try to make it happen.

  21. 22 grouchypants

    Not a ton of credibility, Chicken, if you can’t even spell our currents mayor’s name.

  22. 23 jay

    you guys who talk about murals miss the whole point (in my mind) of Tire Beach. Unlike many of you, I have not been going there for 10 years. I’ve been going there for 25 years….it is the unrestrained use of spray paint that has made it amazing. Even better is how the artists have shared and respected each other…what happened yesterday is sad, pathetic and ignorant. The walls are probably already being tagged and now that the artists can’t do it in the open day light, it might end up being just ugly tagging instead of classic graffiti art. Short of patrolling that area 24 / 7 the paint will reappear. It will be interesting to see what happens with the quality of the art. Personally, I see this as yet another manifestation of the drastic changes in this city and it makes me really depressed. you can’t change these peoples minds, they have a different world view.


  23. 24 monkeylush


    Thank you for asking for clarification on something. I don’t think that the graffiti artists themselves represent a subset of the community that makes the area feel threatening to others, but I think that for whatever reason, the graffiti does in fact attract a seedier bunch. When we were cleaning up we found piles of hypodermic needles–many in the grass where this park is supposed to be open to the community. That is threatening to me. That makes me not want to go there. Seeing it cleaned up, and seeing the whitewashed walls that symbolize that the city or a neighborhood community is taking care of this park, make me feel like i can now use it safely. It’s unfortunate that these things go together, but I do feel that it is too often the case.

    On the other hand, I think I would have liked to see the murals stay on the wall where it just faced the bay. But the problem with that is that the murals aren’t the only thing there…if it WAS just murals, I might feel a little worse about covering them up. But the fact is that on top of and around the murals was a great deal of tagging that had nothing to do with the art.

    I totally agree that a better solution needs to happen here. The fact is that the city doesn’t seem to be listening, and time and time again I’ve found the best to get things done is to work through the system and end with a big middle finger to the system that let you get there. I would love to see a graffiti art center and youth programs based around that theme. If the graffiti community won’t get involved with that, though, they won’t be represented in the plans for what will happen next. And that, to me, is an even greater tragedy.

  24. I can spell Gavin’s name right. But why should I? Then you’d have nothing to complain about…

  25. So glad to see this discussion staying civil (unlike the borderline psychotic talk at SFGate… Tad, you’re so right about that… some people have serious issues! 😉

    Monkeylush writes: “I would have liked to see the murals stay on the wall where it just faced the bay. But the problem with that is that the murals aren’t the only thing there…if it WAS just murals, I might feel a little worse about covering them up. But the fact is that on top of and around the murals was a great deal of tagging that had nothing to do with the art.”

    Here, if you’ll permit me to get a tiny bit pedantic, I would love to drop some knowledge about how this process works. When you say the tagging “had nothing to do with the art”, that turns out not to be really accurate. I know what you mean by it– they don’t look related, they look completely different– but “sidebusting” (putting up a tag in the margins of someone else’s masterpiece) is a well-established tradition. It’s part of the natural cycle that allows the walls to refresh themselves with new layers of art. Most writers will refrain from painting a new piece directly over what looks like a brand new piece by someone else. If they respect that person’s work, they’ll usually let the piece run for a while. How long is “a while”? Well, the gradual accumulation of tags in the margins is one way of marking time. Once the margins get really stuffed, possibly to the point of being an eyesore, that’s the clearest indication that it’s time to paint over that section with a fresh piece.

    This also connects with jay’s point about these not being murals. He’s right– they’re not murals, in the traditional sense, at all. A mural is painted once at great expense, and expected to last unchanged for years or decades. A graffiti “piece” (short for “masterpiece”) on a free wall like Tire Beach is understood to be temporary, and expected to be painted over eventually by something new.

    So Chicken John, whose heart is firmly embedded in the right place, and whose diplomatic mojo is an inspiration to me, I think missed the mark very slightly with the call to preserve one small piece of artwork. Any individual piece of artwork would not have lasted more than a month anyway. To preserve just one would be impossible in the long run, but even if possible, it would be like doing taxidermy on your favorite pet. What I regret the loss of, and what I feel should be preserved, is the vital process of constant renewal that allows these pieces to be replaced, again and again, by ever-more-spectacular ones as time goes on. To see what I mean, follow this link, and click on “cove/eastZ”: []. That’s two years of history on one corner of the wall, and as you can see, it changes almost every week.

    For this reason, I’m hoping we can steer the “phase 2” planning committee towards the idea of establishing a new free wall, where people are encouraged to paint again and again.

    Regarding jay’s other point, that illegality is inherent in the definition of graffiti for the writers themselves, to this I say: it really depends on the writer. I know of writers who only do legal walls, others who do illegals only, and others who do a mix of both. It’s a continuum. If we were to make Tire Beach a legal place to paint, people all the way at one end of the spectrum might consider it beneath them, sure. But I’m pretty sure the rest of the writers would happily paint there, and do great work too.

  26. Whoops, misattribution! That was Oliver Morgan’s point about graffiti being inherently illegal, not jay’s. Sorry Oliver!

  27. Tad, Monkeylush, Oliver, Chicken, and the rest of y’all– please do join the group that Dav started! It’ll be easier to organize all your good ideas there than here. Last one in’s a rotten egg!

  28. 29 Mike Ernst

    Hi everyone –

    I was at the event on Saturday. As Monkeylush mentioned, I am a student at UC Berkeley in the city planning department. I am spending my summer working on a fellowship for SPUR ( and my project site is Warmwater Cove. The main goal of my summer is to come up with ideas for connecting Warmwater Cove to a larger network of open spaces along the bay, billed the Blue Greenway ( According to the Planning Department, about 1 percent of the land in the Central Waterfront is open space, so this is a step in the right direction.

    I didn’t organize the paint-out, but since there was such a large amount of energy around the event, I tried to use Saturday as a chance to get some dialogue going about Warmwater Cove. No matter your vision for the park — including if you like it just the way it is — it will require working with others to insure that the good stuff about Warmwater Cove is kept, and the rest is improved upon. For example, I think if a group of artists come up with a proposal for how to continue using Warmwater Cove as an art space, the Port would be open to it, if the artists agreed to help maintain the park as part in exchange.

    I’m happy to hear your thoughts. Send them my way: michaelernst [at]

    Mike Ernst

  29. 30 CJ

    Graffiti has certainly earned its place in the art world but there is no denying that much of it in parks like this is still being used as a gang type communication. Also, I think if you read up on “Broken Window” theories you can see a rather direct correlation between crime and shabbily kept neighborhoods. I think its best exemplified in Malcolm Gladwells book The Tipping Point, I highly recommend reading it. A commissed mural put together by these artists would be much better for the community.

    I thank you for your time and good luck in your campaigning.

  30. CJ: your assertion that the graffiti at parks like Warm Water Cove is largely gang-related, far from being undeniable, is actually completely false! Gang graffiti may be prevalent in other cities like LA, but in San Francisco in general, the vast majority of the graffiti you see has nothing to do with gangs. At Warm Water Cove specifically, which I’ve been documenting meticulously for nearly three years, I have seen almost no gang-related graffiti– it has popped up only two or three times out of the hundreds of times I’ve visited the park. Apparently San Francisco’s gangs have as little interest in visiting this park as you do.

    As for the “Broken Window” theory: in order to prove that it applies in this case, you’d better start from real facts, not uninformed, prejudiced speculation.

  31. Gladwells book, the Tipping Point, is one I reference often. I often tout that SF is a city of connectors. CJ (not me) you seem a respectful person, but you don’t have any idea what your talking about. You see gang graffiti, and you could have been right. 20 years ago. That’s ten years less then the Tipping Point is referring to. The book clearly states the years that the cleanup on the NYC subway occured. The graffiti at warm water cove was done by artists. This is an undisputable medical fact. I can intrduce you to them. They are not ganstas. I wouldn’t be anywhere near here if they were.

    As for broken windows, lets fix them. Sure. Warm water cove needed attention. Not sterilization.

    And again, I wouldn’t be so spastic about this if the guy didn’t state that he was declaring war on an art form.

    There is much, much more to this debate comming. Please stay with us.

    There are gangs in SF, still. They have turf wars. Warm water cove isn’t subject to those wars. Because it’s not a place where gangs go.

  32. A little update: The feedback form that Mike Ernst was distributing at the Cove last Saturday is now available online. I’d encourage you all to fill it out, and let Mike and SPUR know what your vision is for the future of Warm Water Cove (mine includes lots of free space for art, music, and general carrying on!)

  33. 34 Johnny come lately

    Please stop calling the graffiti that previously existed at tire beach ‘murals’. What made wwc unique was that it was real graffiti, not community art or murals. The spot is lost, the graff is exploding in the streets, and frankly,”murals”, with the exception of Rivera and a few others are boring and static and very often crappy. Nuru won his spot back at wwc. They never really gave a shit about the “community” (outside of Pacific Heights).

  1. 1 Graffiti Party at Chicken John’s « Gavin Newsom
  2. 2 San Francisco Paints Over Popluar Public Graffiti Art Gallery | Laughing Squid

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