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Two sea lions, majestic in their size and simplicity, reign over Bartlett between 21st and 22nd streets. Today, at 10:30 a.m., artists from the collective Wallspace prepared to cover them up.

The mural by the Belgian street artist ROA had only been tagged along the bottom, but Chris from Wallspace said the sea lions had to come down — that this sort of street art could only be up for a year.

It’s not clear why the sea lions were chosen to be painted over when all along the block the walls are filled with tagging that could be cleaned up. If the sea lions are only allowed to survive a year, their time was not yet up, because they were painted in May of last year.

The reporter who happened to walk by told Chris that a year had not yet passed, and added that the sea lions are much loved by the community. If they have been able to survive tagging, why did they have to be erased?

Chris, who asked that his last name not be used, had no answers. His insistence on covering them made it feel like impending death on Bartlett, a street that has been plagued by litter and tagging.

Recently, local muralist Jet Martinez painted “Amate,” a colorful mural of birds, nearby on Bartlett Street. For the most part, taggers have left “Amate,” an adjacent restored mural and the sea lions alone.

But elsewhere along Bartlett tagging is rampant.

By 11:30 a.m., when another reporter returned to the site, the artists Geso and Nemel had covered the sea lions with a red film of paint, but had held off covering then completely. They said they had decided instead to focus on finishing the wall across the parking lot. The sea lions will come down sometime in the next month or two, they said.

The sea lions at 10:30 this morning. By 11 a.m., the Wallspace artists had covered them with a red film of paint.

ROA, a well-known street artist, created the murals when he was in San Francisco last year. Perhaps because of their height, they have gone relatively tag-free compared to everything else along Bartlett.

The artists said ROA will paint something new where the sea lions were, but we have not been able to get in touch with him. It’s not clear whether he’s been told about his sea lions being covered.

Abduzeedo, the design blog, wrote of ROA’s animals: “Roa is probably one of the most notorious street artists nowadays. Illustrating buildings, walls and everything paintable with his animals in many cities around the globe. I was not a huge fan of spray paintings, I always found that this technique was mostly related to the hip hop culture, but Roa artworks show how intense, curious and beautiful can be images done just with a spray can.”

When ROA was asked in an interview on fatcap.com why he didn’t paint humans or landscapes, he said, “I am obsessed by animals! For me they tell so much more about this world than any other creature, but maybe in a year I’ll only paint landscapes….”

On the wall opposite the sea lions the Wallspace artists have already created this mural.