Recommendations for Proposed Graffiti Ordinance

These recommendations were compiled by the Oakland Community Art Coalition made up of several key mural organizations including the Community Rejuvenation Project, Eastside Arts Alliance, Rock Paper Scissors, The Estria Foundation and Trust Your Struggle. These initiatives were developed in response to the proposed “anti-graffiti” ordinance in the Public Works Committee sponsored by outgoing councilperson Nancy Nadel. The next committee meeting on the ordinance will be on Dec. 11 in Oakland City Hall at 9 AM.

1) The language in the ordinance is changed from “graffiti” to “vandalism.” The term graffiti is used to describe a popular aesthetic of art and does not solely describe an act of vandalism and is not culturally appropriate for legal terminology in a city ordinance.

2) The City adopt an abatement model in collaboration with advising community based organizations that will contain the following:

  • The creation of a comprehensive Mural Diversion Program (MDP) in conjunction with qualified Oakland-based community organizations. The MDP will allow for youth and professional development through a multi-org structure of arts-based community organizations and qualified Restorative Justice (RJ) providers. Qualified arts organizations shall work with RJ orgs, who will contribute trainings, workshops to establish an arts-based RJ curriculum as a diversionary practice for offenders charged with vandalism, defined as defacement and/or property destruction. The MDP shall be the first step in creating a framework around a proactive strategy to address blight reduction in areas which have been repeatedly defaced by taggers, where current abatement methods have proved ineffective and cost-inefficient. The MDP will be an option for community service diversion, in cases where the property owner is an absentee landlord or cannot be located.
  • Expanded Protections for existing murals from abatement. A Mural Registry is necessary to protect artists under the Visual Rights Act (VARA) (1990), from city and/or outsourced abatement destruction.
  • Choice opportunities for businesses to use murals (specifically in the Arts and Professional Development Restorative Justice Model mentioned below) as a form of abatement in lieu of payment of fines.
  • In the occurrence that a property owner is either not responsive and/or signed leasee is given permission for property improvements, the leasee can have proper jurisdiction to employ artists to use art in accordance with abatement strategies with discretion.
  • In a situation when a property owner or leasee does not have access to a wall that has been vandalized, the city agree to work to relieve property owner of fines and fees it accrues because of lack of access to vandalized property (such as, but not limited to property adjacent to Cal Trans or BART property).

3) The City of Oakland have a designated and attentive committee of staff dedicated and sensitive to public concern surrounding the specific ordinance including but not exclusive to the following departments: Public Works Agency, City Council Public Works Committee, the Oakland Police Department, The City Attorney’s Office, Oakland Parks and Recreation, and Cultural Arts and Marketing. It is also recommended that the city facilitate and maintain open relationships between justice system and collaborating community based organizations. This designated group should be in willing communication with community organizations involved.

4) The City of Oakland must maintain constant commitment to a Visual Arts and Professional Development Restorative Justice (APDRJ) Model with an emphasis on Oakland neighborhood based community participation.

  •  The APDRJ Model includes multiple opportunities produced by Oakland based organizations localized throughout Oakland neighborhoods.
  • The City support of the APDRJ model must maintain financial and institutional resources to ensure every “charged” community member has support and access to programs. APDRJ facilitators must be qualified and certified through training.
  •  Cross organizational and programatic support for APDRJ referred program participants is recommended to insure access to programs of interest as well as provide a rounded community-based safety net.
  • APDRJ model contain elements of professional development and personal support.


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