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Belmont Tunnel

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Los Angeles is once again busy trying to scrub away our colorful and interesting heritage. The Belmont Tunnel, formerly used to hustle rail traffic into and out of downtown, is in danger of being restricted from public use. The issue is rancorous because since its abandonment, the Tunnel has become a sort of wasteland, inhabited mostly by the unseemly characters that police pin all sorts of nastiness on: the homeless and taggers.

Belmont Tunnel has become, over the years, the mecca of West Coast graffiti. Its walls are consistently coated with excellent work—the sort most people only stumble upon if they're lucky, or riding the Red Line.

In an effort to save the Tunnel from being completely cut off, the City is proposing that it be turned into a park with "legal" graffiti walls for use by the taggers and graffiti artists who frequent it. While this would prevent the construction of a mega apartment complex, it would also scare away the artists who have made it what it is, removing the main reason the graffiti is there in the first place: it's not supposed to be.

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The debate over graffiti has been a long and ugly one, resulting in incarceration and censure for the artists who do it, and irritation and hysterical sensitivity on the part of the public. Sure, it's illegal and some of it is ugly but pegging graffiti artists as "urban terrorists" isn't really doing anything to stop it—and neither is the jail time. What's so wrong with accepting graffiti as a part of urban life and learning to live with it, and perhaps accept it as a viable (and organic) form of art?