Four months ago, a group of young graffiti artists approached a small Inner Sunset produce market and offered to paint a mural on the outer wall of the store, facing Irving Street. They said they would do the whole thing for free, reasoning that a few days' work and several gallons of paint would be worth the exposure in a prime public space along Muni's N-Judah route. Sue Park of Park's Farmers' Market took the deal.
The mural introduced warm colors to an otherwise bleak stretch of sidewalk. A bonsai tree with pink leaves filled the center of the image, framed by a background of emerald green and maize. A small bird nested on the trunk, whistling. Larger birds perched on two of the artists' names, Illogic and Josf, on either side of the tree.
Park said the response from customers was mostly favorable. But a month ago, she found an official city notice taped to the wall beside the mural. The notice made the shrewd observation that graffiti had been spotted on the property, and set out some of the city's strict rules against graffiti in legal terms.
Park wasted little time before covering the mural with a coat of beige paint. "I didn't want any trouble with the city," she said. (In business for 25 years, Park said she had never received a notice like that before.)
Christine Falvey of the Department of Public Works said that street cleaning crews roam commercial corridors five days a week, and a crew member had reported the graffiti at Park's.
Though the notice appeared next to the mural, Falvey said DPW records show that the complaint was about white spray paint on the market's green awning and red paint on a window above the entrance — not the mural. In fact, Falvey said, DPW is trying to encourage property owners to use murals and other artwork to discourage random tagging. "People are less likely to tag a mural than just a blank wall," she said.
When told about the DPW records, Park's eyes grew wide in disbelief. Since the city filed its notice, she has been battling new streaks of gray and black graffiti, and the offending red and white marks remain. Only the free artwork is gone.