Monday, February 8, 2010
Fighting the Blight!
Even before the invention of writing, people have painted or scrawled things on walls, caves and rocks to show that walked upon the Earth. These days, the same thing happens, but it's a contributing factor to the blighted look of any urban landscape. You've seen it before - tag upon tag of indecipherable turns and squiggles that only make sense to other taggers. Belltown's surfaces get tagged perhaps more than any other Seattle neighborhood. As a resident, it's a little difficult to watch, because tags tend to accumulate. This is the building across the street from me:
Yeah, not pretty. If they don't do something about them, they'll continue to amass. But hey, these guys sort and grade gems, so maybe it's to their advantage to look low-rent. It attracts less attention. All I know is that it generally takes them months to deal with the tags. Many places have a much quicker reaction time: Cafe Zoe at 2nd & Blanchard, for instance. Back in September, they received this rather large gift:
The next day it was gone:
It was tagged again in November. The response was similar. It hasn't been tagged again. The Crocodile reacts similarly; they get rid of tags as quickly as possible. They haven't been tagged in months. So first off, using these two places as prime examples, eradicate the offending scrawls as quickly as possible. Taggers will find somewhere more permanent to lay down their paint and they'll keep away from your walls.
Here's another example of what happens when you ignore the problem and hope that it'll all magically vanish. The Cristalla is a condo high-rise at 2nd & Lenora. Last October, their rather stark south wall was host to some of the neighborhood's worst graffiti:
Yeah, that's about a hundred feet of badness. You'd think that the management would have sprung into action and done something about it immediately. After all, most of these higher-end condos and apartments sell themselves as urban oases. But they did nothing. More graffiti showed up:
And so it remained for months. Finally, they did something about it:
They probably could have saved themselves time and effort if they had dealt with the initial batch of scrawls when it first appeared. But they didn't until their gleaming residence started looking like an abandoned building. And now the solution looks nearly as bad as the original problem. I guess they were waiting for another condo tower to go in next to them, but the way the economy is, that's not happening anytime soon, so at last they had to do something.
You'd think that with the wide variety of people wandering around, all thinking various thoughts and doing various things, that there's no point in having nice things within their reach. Actually, I've found the opposite to be true. Two examples: first, the doors of the Crocodile. Back in May, the newly-reopened Crocodile installed some very fancy door handles:
At the time, I remember thinking that something terrible was going to happen to them very soon. Not only to them, but to the doors they were attached to. Nothing of the sort has happened. They remain there unmolested; nobody has tried to pry them off or carve their initials into the doors or anything. The second example concerns the lowly traffic light utility box. You've seen them; they stand about so high and in Belltown, they are a constant attraction for stickers and tags. Well, late in the summer, the city started painting them. I'm not sure why it only involved a few of them in Belltown and downtown, but that's how it worked out. Here's one at 2nd & Virginia:
I took these pictures a while ago, but the scene is exactly the same. Nobody has messed with this box in months. Ordinarily, if it was painted the standard gray, it would be covered in tags and stickers. There are a few more of these boxes in the neighborhood and almost all have been left alone.
All of this leads me to conclude that common urban blight (i.e. graffiti and other visual noise) can be largely avoided by doing two things:
1. React quickly when graffiti shows up. Eradicate it immediately.
2. Don't be afraid to expose nice things, whether they're decorations, fixtures or artwork to the public. They'll hold up.
Most often, taggers will only mess with places that appear not to care. This neighborhood has its share of problems, but graffiti is avoidable.