Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Writing on the Wall

As you may recall, about a month ago, I mentioned that someone had spray-painted some graffiti in front of my house.

There was graffiti on the retaining wall, on the sidewalk near the wall, on the approach to the driveway, and on the streetlight adjacent to my house. I didn't mention this in my original post, but there was also some graffiti on the curb across the street from me.

I bought some graffiti removal products and went to work. The writing on the wall came off pretty easily, and the graffiti on the sidewalk in front of the wall came off pretty easily as well. I didn't have as much luck with the streetlight or the driveway approach, though. I removed most of the paint, but you can still see it. As for the curb across the street from me, I decided that that was my neighbor's problem.

So I took the advice of the person who commented on the original post: I called the Los Angeles County Graffiti Removal Hotline. They answer their phones 24 hours a day, so I thought it would be a simple matter to contact them, but the first time I called (sometime around 8:00 at night), they put my on hold and I never heard from them again.

So I went to their web site and filed a graffiti report online. Their online form also allowed me to submit pictures, so I included some of the pictures I'd taken. I waited for four or five days, but I never heard from them, so I resubmitted the report again. When they still hadn't contacted me a week later, I reasoned that their online form submission page might not be working.

They're supposed to get the work done within 72 hours of receiving the report, but they hadn't even contacted me yet, so I called them again. This time the woman was very helpful and friendly, but she told me that they didn't handle all of LA county, and she thought that the area I lived in might not be covered. But she wrote a work order anyway and told me that if the job hasn't been completed within three days, I should call back and give them the work order reference number, and they'd give me a local number I could call.

Three days came and three days went, but the graffiti didn't go anywhere. So I called back, but I got transferred to someone's voice mail. I told her the story and asked her to call me back with the number of someone I could contact locally.

Unfortunately, I wasn't near a phone when she returned my call, so she left me a message, and in that message the number she gave me to call was my own number -- the one I had told her to call me back at. I think she was a little confused.

So I called my city's Department of Public Works and asked them if they had a graffiti removal program. The woman who answered told me that if the graffiti was on city property, they'd take care of it, but if it was on my property, it was my responsibility to remove it. So I told her the three places on city property where the graffiti was.

When I mentioned the approach to my driveway, she told me that that was my responsibility. "Even though it's on city property?" I asked her. "Yes," she told me.

So I asked her about the curb across the street, and she told me that that was the homeowner's responsibility as well. "Even though it's on city property?" I repeated. "Yes," she repeated back to me.

Then I asked her about the streetlight. I didn't see how that could possibly be considered the homeowner's responsibility, and as it turns out, it isn't. "That's the responsibility of Southern California Edison," she informed me.

I suppose if the graffiti was painted on the walls of city hall, they might consider it their responsibility, but then again, they might not.

As for me, I'm going to hire a guy to remove whatever graffiti I couldn't remove from the driveway approach. I contacted him the day I first noticed the graffiti, and his bid for the whole job was a few hundred dollars. That seemed reasonable, but I figure it should be less now since I removed most of the graffiti myself. Of course, he might figure otherwise, but we'll see.

And if his bid is low enough, I may even have him clean the streetlight. I know I could call Southern California Edison and have them do it, but I've dealt with them before and trying to get them to do anything is more trouble than it's worth.

As for the curb across the street, that's still my neighbor's problem.