Real estate

Dwight offices: The case of the disappearing graffiti

We are happy to report that the owners of the office building on the corner of Dwight and Fulton have cleaned up their act — or at least they have cleaned up swathes of graffiti.

When we wrote about this property on January 19, we described it as a “graffiti fest” as its walls and windows were plastered with scrawls (pictured above, left). At that time the building was looking for a new tenant or owner.

The For Lease/Sale sign has now come down, which may explain why most of the graffiti on the facade of the building has been removed (pictured, above right). Just one area remains heavily tagged — the brick wall between two windows on the Dwight side (above).

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  • jjohannson

    That really was atrocious. What I want to know is, who owns that building, and what else do they own in Berkeley? That was really terrible citizenship.

  • laura menard

    There is a constant cycle of painting over graffiti on this building for years.
    I am more interested in whether the owners installed surveillance cameras.

  • http://www.tktaylor.com Tracey Taylor

    JJohannson: Public records show that the property last sold in April 2006 to Richard & Barbara W. Sklar, or the Sklar 1996 Trust, whose address is Broadway Street in San Francisco.

  • EBGuy

    It looks like they have owned the place (jointly with the Weinstein’s) since 1991 (purchase price of $3,450,000). Current tax base is ~$4.2 million.

  • Jane Tierney

    I have watched that property almost daily for several years. No one can fault the owners for the atrocious graffiti they were subjected to, despite countless cleanups on their part. I hope the latest cleanup will be respected. It is staggering to think of the costs this has placed on the owners, and will continue to exist to the new owners, if the graffiti is not stopped. I wonder why there is no enforcement, with a property this largely affected, which clearly is being assaulted daily. Best wishes to the new owners. Maybe a closed circuit camera, or an electric wire!!

  • laura menard

    Blaming property owners for graffiti especially in problem areas is really a form of blaming the victim. One week we had numerous homes and cars tagged with WSB X14 graffiti, many property owners filed vandalism complaints with BPD.

    The extensive problem with graffiti in Berkeley is a city enforcement problem, right up there with the high property crime rates.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    If you don’t want graffiti on your corner facing building in a heavily trafficked part of an urban environment, then offer the public a better face than a brick wall and see-out-but-not-see-in windows on a building not generally open to the public. The famous architect and social critic James Kunstler has a name for that style of urban architecture. He describes it as the kind of architecture (and use plan) you come up with the night before a deadline with empty boxes from Chinese delivery food scattered around the board room table while the team struggles to assemble their bid, 2:30 AM sleepy and what’s the point other than to get it done by morning. He calls it the “Fuck it.” style of urban design.

    If you put up a street-facing surface that’s good for nothing but graffiti, then don’t act so surprised when what you get is… gosh … graffiti.

    Ms. Menard: Cameras won’t exactly fix the ill of that structure.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    “The extensive problem with graffiti in Berkeley is a city enforcement problem, right up there with the high property crime rates.”

    No more than a case of malaria is a fever reduction problem. You can’t fix these kinds of things simply by turning up the “enforcement knob”.

  • laura menard

    Check out San Jose, Santa Clara and numerous other cities identified as highly successful by the CA League of cities. Google the League to find their model policies built on enforcement.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Yeah, Ms. Menard – by all means, check out San Jose and Santa Clara. San Jose in particular really stands out as a crime-free environment. Why it puts Mayberry to shame. And, heck, its size and geographic placement make it a perfect comparison to Berkeley. And then, after that, I woke up.

    Graffiti like that building experienced is a problem, sure. There is no reason not to enforce code, sure. Slapping up a privately owned and operated panopticon, as you suggest? We have issues. (a) you ain’t gonna fix crime that way, only make it more extreme; (b) it contributes to the general incivility which is already present in the street-facing “f- it” architecture of that building.

  • http://Doweneedafortress? Jane Tierney

    Our neighborhood association met with City of Berkeley’s code enforcement for graffiti, and received a firm rebuff, along with a “you should be grateful you’re not in Oakland” comment from the chief enforcement officer. They do absolutely nothing. We’ve taken matters in our own hands and now have a “task force” locally that works with building owners and also patrols to clean up graffiti quickly. Anyone who would like to read more about the social aspects and impact of graffiti on communities should read “The Tipping Point,” by Malcolm Gladwell. Rather than argue the merits or de-merits of architectural design as it contributes to graffiti, why not question why buildings are not merely left alone? Perhaps more public mural space would be a more constructive solution; along with skate parks, teen centers and other worthwhile modes of expression.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Regarding the question: “Rather than argue the merits or de-merits of architectural design as it contributes to graffiti, why not question why buildings are not merely left alone?”

    I do question why *that* building is not merely left alone or at least graffiti-ed in more tasteful ways and it seems obvious to me that a large part of the answer is because it presents such an inviting if not necessary target by means of its obnoxiously insensitive public face. Architecture matters. It’s a form of social engineering. That building has a “bug”.

  • http://Doweneedafortress? Jane Tierney

    For the sake of accuracy only, you need only walk or drive that entire eight block distance, from Shattuck to Telegraph, to see that EVERY building along that stretch has a “bug.” And every blank wall is repeatedly and constantly tagged, and then repainted, and then retagged, and then repainted. I’m not arguing the tastefulness or ugliness of that particular building. I think its emptiness has left it as a target. But not dramatically more than the other buildings. It’s just way harder and more costly to clean up. In that regard, then only a fortress with a chain link fence perhaps, would be immune from graffiti. But then they’d tag the sidewalk. I agree that architecture matters. I come from a family of architects, going back six generations. I get the point. I just don’t completely agree, and that is not because I like that building. I think the phenomenon is more about the graffiti and less about the structure, in particular those with large walls. Just look at the brown dog ear picket fence up the street (East.) It is repainted weekly. Look at the white brick wall at Telegraph and Dwight. It is repainted weekly. And so on, and so on. I liken graffiti to “leaving your mark,” and not in a good way. There are so many more positive ways to make artful expression.