Mayor Harrell Details Proposed Efforts to Beautify City; Address Surge in Graffiti
Mayor Bruce Harrell detailed elements of his One Seattle Graffiti Plan to beautify Seattle and address a surge in graffiti through new strategies and proposed budget investments. Since 2019, incidents of graffiti reported by the public have grown over 50%, including nearly 20,000 reports of graffiti and tagging in 2021.
“We have an opportunity to envision a more beautiful Seattle – with murals and canvasses that reflect our values of creativity, inclusion, and forward thinking,” said Mayor Harrell. “Not only does tagging and graffiti detract from the vibrancy of our city, there are tangible impacts on communities targeted by hate speech, small business owners whose shops are defaced, and residents who rely on City signage for information and guidance. Incidents of graffiti have dramatically increased throughout the pandemic, and progress requires a One Seattle approach, where we work together to advance proven solutions, reduce silos, and tap into our greatest resource – our community.”
Mayor Harrell’s plan includes six major pillars:
- Implementing Best Practices to Increase Abatement – Mayor Harrell’s plan and proposed budget will enhance staffing and resources for Seattle Public Utilities’ Graffiti Rangers, allowing them to easily remove graffiti using specialized equipment and effectively discourage re-tagging. The plan will also improve interdepartmental coordination across City departments involved in anti-graffiti work.
- Increased Assistance to Reduce Graffiti on Private Property – New resources will be offered to victims of vandalism and existing resources will be made easier and more equitable to access. In addition to an abatement kit pilot program and the Office of Economic Development’s new Storefront Repair Fund, SPU’s Graffiti Rangers will proactively offer City abatement services at low- or no-cost to eligible property owners.
- Many Hands Art Initiative – Mayor Harrell’s plan will engage with artists, businesses, volunteers, and others to activate spaces with art, mitigating and preventing graffiti, through the Many Hands Art Initiative. The Seattle Office of Arts and Culture is already seeking partners to install new public art, providing opportunities for creative workers. As part of this initiative, they are also developing artist-led youth programs to give young people a sanctioned, safe way to pursue an interest in street art.
- Enhanced Volunteer Programming and Coordination – Building on experience from anti-graffiti volunteers, Mayor Harrell’s plan will include providing up to 1,000 graffiti abatement kits and training individuals, groups, and businesses how to use them effectively. Additionally, the City will launch new Days of Caring in each district starting in 2023, bringing volunteers and community groups together to enhance and beautify neighborhoods.
- New Approaches to Enforcement – Working with the City Attorney’s Office and SPD, the plan will increase enforcement of graffiti offenses, striking a balance with larger penalties for the most prolific taggers and expanded diversion options for low-level offenders. These will include community service work, mentorship programs, and alternative avenues for creative expression to discourage future offenses.
- Continued Collaboration with the Washington State Department of Transportation – Early collaboration between the City and WSDOT has reprioritized cleanups along their rights of way, with hundreds of work hours going toward abatement efforts during late-night lane closures for I-5 expansion joint work this summer. The City of Seattle will continue to work with WSDOT to prioritize cleanup and abatement along the interstate and other rights of way, pursuing an efficient, coordinated approach moving forward.