According to the SF Public Press. That’s city-wide, spread across several agencies. The public works department spends $3.6 million — about 5% of its total budget.

Interesting details revealed in the article:

* The Department of Public Works paid out its first three $250 rewards this summer, and 12 more people are waiting to cash in. Those who report vandalism do not receive their rewards unless their calls lead to the taggers’ conviction. They must be willing to testify against the taggers and so cannot remain anonymous. Compared to San Diego, we’re cheapskates; they pay $500.

* Currently, the gas tax, vandalism fines, and the city’s general fund pay for the department’s graffiti programs. However, DPW’s deputy director of operations, Mohammed Nuru, (yes, that Mohammed Nuru) said he would also like to see a tax on art supplies typically used to make graffiti.

* StreetSmARTS, the collaboration between DPW and the San Francisco Arts Commission that recruited artists to paint murals and deter taggers, has been deemed a success and will receive more than the $150,000 it got this year.

* The department is now organizing another anti-graffiti measure: the “Free Wall” program, which would place blank boards in neighborhoods to provide space for legal artistic expression. It’s still in the discussion phase; the department is considering whether it might want the option to keep or sell some of the murals that artists create on the boards.

* DPW is also keeping a graffiti database, inspired by one in San Jose, that allows the city to create “profiles” of taggers based on their style of work.

Follow Us

Heather Smith covers a beat that spans health, food, and the environment, as well as shootings, stabbings, various small fires, and shouting matches at public meetings. She is a 2007 Middlebury Fellow in Environmental Journalism and a contributor to the book Infinite City.

Join the Conversation


  1. After reading the article, I am left still wondering where the $20. million dollars in graffiti abatement money goes. We are informed what the DPD department is doing with its $3.6 Million, but what about the other $16.4 Million of the $20 million?

    1. Maye,

      Apologies for the delay in responding. I’m assuming that the bulk of the money might be spent on police and court costs, but without doing more research I can’t know for sure. There’s the making of a story in here, definitely.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *