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Los Angeles Covered Up Over One Square Mile Of Graffiti Last Year

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It is a never-ending battle to scrub away the presence of graffiti from Los Angeles' walls, and last year alone the city removed over one square mile of tagging.Using paints such as "L.A. Bridge Brown," "Lamppost Gray," and "Hydrant Yellow" to cover it up, along with removal methods like chemical washing and pressure blasting, the Office of Community Beautification is the organizing force behind the effort. It naturally a daunting task for those tasked with the job, and as much as most residents want to see the graffiti gone it's also a challenge to make sure the job is done right. If the covering paint doesn't match the original surface well enough, it can look worse than before. "You didn't ruin the wall, the gangster did, but you get blamed for it," said Carlos Guerra of the Gang Alternatives Program (GAP). "Most of the time, we have the standards: beige, tan, brown, and white."

"As much as possible, we want to make it look like the original surface," Paul Racs, director of the Office Community Beautification told Medium's reForm. The department has set a "zero tolerance" policy, with all due apologies to aspiring street artists throughout the city.

GAP is among 13 non-profit community-based organizations that Community Beautification contracts to take care of the vandalism across the entire city. In all, 80 individual crews are spread out over all of Los Angeles on any given day. Citizens can submit any graffiti they see in their neighborhood with the City's own Anti-Graffiti Request System, which handled 118,000 requests last year. According to Racs they handled the requests rather efficiently, taking care of 85% of all submissions within 72 hours.

The rest of the reForm pieces handles larger, more philosophical questions regarding graffiti removal in the urban space, especially focusing on what the author calls "The Abstraction Line." It's what the author defines as that line where the original surface ends and the painted-over portion covering the graffiti begins; comparing it to the intertidal zone of the beach or the high-water mark of a dry reservoir. Because of our own unique perceptions of color (remember The Dress?), these splotches can be subtle for some and jarring for others.