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Graffiti, Bus Benches & Euro Style Public Bathrooms

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I received this e-mail yesterday from the city:

On behalf of the City of Los Angeles and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, thank you for contacting 3-1-1 on Jan 21, 2007 to report graffiti at XXXXX MOORPARK ST.

Your report has been assigned the following Service Request Number: 148021. You will be notified via e-mail when the contractor reports they have completed this request.
In most cases, the graffiti will be taken care of within a few days and you'll get a confirmation e-mail. Though there are times when it is just not happening. "Why? Why? It's a bus bench. The city owns it!"

Alright. So we first call Paul Rachs at the Office of Beautification. We talk about what happens with graffiti that is not on city property. Let's say you report graffiti on private property (and you can). The abatement crews will go out there and see if they can contact the owners to clean it for them. In the case of graffiti on other agency property, such as CalTrans, the graffiti request becomes deferred and sent to that agency. Still, we're not understanding why those ugly brown bus benches don't get cleaned.

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We next spoke to Lance Oishi who monitors all the "street furniture" contracts for the city. We find out that those blighted bus benches are not actually owned by the city. They are owned by a Chatsworth based company called Norman Bench Company. The deal is, Norman provides the street furniture for the convenience of the public and they get to reap the profit from the ads on the backboard. But some bonehead city attorney approved the contract, which included graffiti abatement to be completed within something around 30 days of notification. 30 days! That's useless. And by the look of things, they actually take their 30 days very seriously. That's hardly a care for the community, but even worse for them, the advertisers that pay for those spots.

Mr. Oishi did mention that if 30 days passes and the graffiti is not taken care of, the city will unbolt the bench and throw it in a city dump. I would like to see this, no deference to the old lady who needs to sit while waiting for the next bus that will come 20 minutes late. Of course, she doesn't need to worry because the chances that Mr. Oishi's team has the time and resources to actually follow up on every naughty bus bench is little to none. The city's budget just is not there yet.

However, we are lucky that Norman Bus Bench's contract is coming up within a few years. Will they put in a bid? Will the city actually want them back? Let's hope not.

And as big and corporate Viacom is, their contract and service is fit as a fiddle when it comes to their street furniture. Under the cover of CVS Decaux, the metal bus shelters and three-paneled ad kiosks they operate must be cleaned within 24 hours. And they actually do it.

And if daily service was not enough, try those European style public bathrooms we have, also owned and operated by CVS. When I say "we have," I am referring the total three that are out and about in the city. It's like a scavenger hunt. Where are they? You can find one at the NoHo Red Line Station, the Northridge Metrolink Station and one in Skid Row.

Anyway, these automated public bathrooms must be serviced twice a day, 7 days a week all year long. No more disgusting port-o-potties. It's like were in the future!

And these toilets are pretty cool. You put a quarter to get in, do your business and shut the door on the way out (the Skid Row one does not cost a quarter). Then the bathroom goes to work sucking the toilet into the wall tp sanitize the whole thing in around 30 seconds. Not too shabby.

And if you were wishing we had more than three, you should know there's supposed to be 150 across the city at some point, but as things go, politics and NIMBYs get in the way. Though, in theory, it shouldn't be that hard. It's not like the city is paying for these -- CVS puts them up for free at city approved locations.

Until then, PDDs are legal, thanks to the courts. PDDs as in Public Displays of Defecation.