Photo by Julian Mark

About a week ago, a mural painted by high school students on the side of Philz Coffee on 24th Street received an awkward addition: a hulking, ramshackle wooden structure meant to shelter trash cans, which obscures the mural.   

Neighbors are scratching their heads. So is the Precita Eyes muralist who led the students.

“When it showed up, we didn’t know what it was,” said Ann Hess, who lives near the corner.

The structure, about five feet tall and perhaps seven feet wide, covers a significant portion of the mural, including the high school-age artists’ names.

“Tourists used to come look at that in groups,” Hess said. “It’s one of the highlights.”

The structure has already been defaced by graffiti, and Hess has noticed homeless people sleeping within it and otherwise using it for shelter.

Max Marttila, who co-directed the project for Precita Eyes, said that a Philz representative alerted him before the structure went up. “We’re trying to figure out how we can restore it in an appropriate manner,” he said.

One idea floated by Philz would be to repaint a portion of the mural onto the structure itself or otherwise paint the structure so that it blends into the artwork.

The structure is required to house garbage cans, according to Jolie Meschi, a Philz marketing communications manager. “Until now, the cans were in the store to prevent them from getting stolen or tipped over,” she said.

“The mural is important to us and we are in [the] process of getting the artist to paint over the new structure to complete the mural,” she added.  

This unsought — and unwanted — commission could pose a challenge, however. Marttila said creating a trompe l’oeil trash shelter would be tricky.  

Hess, the mural’s neighbor, said she felt for the student artists who created it. “Now they have to see this monstrosity blocking their artwork.”

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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  1. They should have placed it curbside away from the mural or at least discussed with the community and muralist the best solution prior. Lacking public outreach…..

    1. That’d be on city property and definitely illegal. The sidewalk squares closest to the cafe are likely inside the property footprint of the corner building, but there’s a right of way.

      There are similar boxes around town. The question is whether they are permissible under the current ordinances. It’s a question for the sidewalk inspector at DBI.

  2. How is it ok that Philz is taking part of the public space to run their business? Phil has been keeping his trash cans inside the store for decades. Just because he thinks more space in the store doesn’t mean he gets to take it from the public. Was their a permit process?

    1. JUstin,

      You can bet there was a lawyer involved.

      Problem is that there are thousands and thousands of
      homeowners who have kept their trash cans outside and
      away from the curb until trash day.

      Will they now have to build rats next structures all over the City?

      Warriors are awake again!


    2. Technically, in SF you need a permit anytime a structure is attached to an existing building. A small, free standing shed in your backyard wouldn’t need a permit, but if you attached it to your house with screws, then technically it would.

      DPW cannot grant encroachments onto public right of way. They could at one time, but that was specifically nixed. You can see the stricken text here:

      Here is SF receptacle law in a nutshell:

  3. I don’t understand how Philz gets to permanently take that part of the public right if way, is the sidewalk, for their trash cans?!

  4. Joe,

    Once again I typed a comment but forgot to fill in my ID
    and when I went back and did the de rigeur ID your robot
    erased my original comments.

    Can you put the ID field before the comment box?

    I cannot be alone in being inconvenienced by this format.

    Go Giants!


  5. I saw them working on it at lunchtime today. There’s doors on it now.

    They need a permit for that.

    1. Up to now their cans have not been visible because they have been stored inside the building.

      1. the rule isn’t “new”, its been a regulation for years and seems like a good idea for the cans to be stored somewhere so they can’t be improperly accessed…

        for an example of a “trompe l’oeil trash shelter” check out Asiento at 21st and Bryant – that huge mural on the Bryant St side incorporates a trash shelter.