The small office of Galu Realty on 24th Street, where the owner Philip Galu sits, has a large window, and aside from using it to display a stuffed armadillo, it also offers the realtor a view of one of his properties – the parking lot on 24th and Capp streets.
Nowadays, the wall that wraps around to the apartment building at 899 Capp St. has become the site of a silent, but visible feud. In a sense, however, it’s the most recent chapter of a tale that began years ago when Galu struggled with graffiti vandals who used the fence surrounding the parking lot as a canvas. “It was a pain in the neck,” he said recently.
Then, he got smart. He noticed that the taggers who vandalize private property often left murals alone. He found the mural artist Francisco Aquino, known as Twick, who also teaches art to 4th-6th graders through the SF Arts Commission.
“We got a hold of these guys and bought them paint,” said Galu referring to Twick and his team.
That was a year and a half ago and in one section of the mural, Twick painted Spanish conquistadors tipping over a Mayan statue. Behind the conquistadors came friars carrying a cross. Later on “the mural got erased, it got buffed,” said Twick.
The image, he said, might have offended someone. “I took it as a truth hurts kind of a thing and people didn’t want to see that I guess,” said Twick.
He left it but graffiti started to appear and before long, the wall “was back to its normal ugly state,” Twick said.
He wrote the word “Love” on the same spot where the conquistadors had been and it remained untouched for about two months. Then someone erased half of the word, then all of it vanished.
This year – on the very first day of it – Twick began painting a large Virgen de Guadalupe – the largest in the Mission, he said. It remains untouched.
In late April, Twick began adding more images to the mural, west of the Virgen, and eventually the mural covered the corner of the apartment building at 899 Capp St.
At the end of April, the apartment building’s manager painted over the corner leaving – as if he couldn’t reach it – the blue paint along the top.
“I’m the manager, it’s the owner who doesn’t want it,” said the manager who asked that his name not be used. “I like the murals, people are really talented, all I’m doing is what the owner asks me to do.”
Shortly after the buffing, retaliatory tags started to appear.
On the morning of Saturday May 1st, the Uptown Almanac posted photos of the buffed walls with the writing “Stop Hating, We Want our Mural Back”.
That was buffed and then the following morning, Sunday May 2nd, Mission Loc@l’s editor stopped by and saw that the tags had been covered once more.
When she returned that afternoon, the wall had been tagged yet again.
For 14 days, that one plea remained.
“They act like it’s their right to paint it, and honestly, it’s really rude,” said the manager. “I don’t want to get into a fight with them, I’m not calling the police or anything like that…but there are different ways to get your projects done.”
Tomas Camey, a resident of the apartment building, said he likes the mural “I would like them to put up the entire mural, because I like it when so many tourists come by and take photos, it’s a beautiful memory that many people take from San Francisco,” said Camey. “It would be a good idea to put it back up so that the entire wall looks nice and so that it also matches with what they (the artists) want to express.”
Galu, the parking lot owner, would also like the mural extended and said they have tried talking to the building owner. “Might as well talk to a wall,” he said.
Twick understands that as much as it disappoints him to see a part of his mural get covered, it could be worse. The Virgen de Guadalupe, while facing 24th Street, is actually painted on the apartment building’s wall.
Twick understands that it’s the property owner’s right, but insisted that the only solution to a wall that continually gets tagged, is a mural.
In fact, just around the corner, at 3245 23rd St., Twick is working on another, owner-requested mural. That one is part of StreetSmARTS, a joint program of the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Department of Public Works to curb tags by adding murals.
Twick says that as long as the owner at 899 Capp St. buffs over the last portion of the mural, taggers will return. “He tries to fix that corner but it’s not fixable,” said Twick. “It’s a no-win situation…he’s not gonna win. If he keeps on painting it white, it’s gonna keep getting tagged.”
Mission Loc@l found the owner, Evelyn Cornell in Sacramento where she lives and paints oils.
When Mission Loc@l reached her late Wednesday, she said she wanted the front of her apartment building in its original condition and had asked her manager to paint over the mural. At the same time, however, she added “we appreciate murals.”
She listened to the story about the controversy and the message that had been left untouched: “We want our Mural Back.”
She made no promises, but Cornell said she would confer with her sister who co-owned the building and get back to Mission Loc@l.
“We want our building to be a private building and not make any political statements,” she said. “We want our building to be neutral.”
She said she feared the mural would go around to the front, and when Mission Loc@l asked if she would be open to a compromise and getting an assurance from the artist that the mural would stop after the corner, she said no.
“I talked it over with my sister and we want the building to be just a plain old apartment building.”
Over the weekend, a new tag – this one in black – appeared next to the plea.