Thursday, August 6, 2009

Doug Diboll: Tipping Toward the Positive in NOPA

Only once has Doug Diboll caught a tagger in the act. Nothing violent ensued, but he doubts the offender will return with spray can in hand. (Forget the tagger's technique, what was Doug's?)

You might say Doug works both sides of the "tipping point" theory to keep NOPA more livable. He paints over graffiti tags to ensure that the neighborhood doesn't decline into more serious disrepair and he keeps our streets free of grafitti to propel NOPA into a greater vitality.

NOPA streets look great without the tags; well, generally good at least. But a bit more breaking out of the streets-are-for-cars-only mode would make this area more cool than it's current rep has it. We've got the annual block party, the kids Halloween prowl, the farmer's market.

But when do we get to the next level? The re-designed blocks with bulb outs and play areas, mini parklands, block long garage sales every month, kids bike blocks once a week, tai chi corner, theatre-in-the-middle?

Doug helps keep the streets tagger-clean, ready for their reincarnations (that's my take, not necessarily his). He watches over his specific beat, the Fulton Street corridor between Masonic and Divisidero. (But he monitors nearby blocks as well). He's part of the city-wide Grafitti Watch program, and he stocks paint and graifitti remover at home. He's got the tag patrol specs down. He can point out the telephone company's switching boxes from the postal service relay boxes, he knows the specific color of paint for each public structure, and he knows what taggers like: big canvasses.

Private property with large blank exteriors get tagged frequently. Until 2005 the Dept. of Public Works abated grafitti on private property --providing matching paint -- but those days of city largesse have passed. Doug's advice to home or business owners whose buildings get tagged: be sure to use an exact, or very close, color match to paint over the tag and the sooner the better. "Tags tend to accumulate," he cautioned, "the faster you get them off the less chance more will follow."

Keep the tipping toward the positive: report grafitti to 311, either by calling or online. Volunteer for Grafitti Watch: one three-hour training is required to learn the best practices for removing tags. Tell the 311 operator that you're interested volunteering for the program. And say hello to Doug and thank him for his diligence and neighborly good will. He's often directing traffic outside Pacific Primary School in the mornings and afternoons.


  1. Thanks, Michael, for a very nice post. I'd like to see those kid's bike blocks (among other ideas) come to fruition, soon. It would have to be done with ISCOTT application reviews for street closure, however I think that our Supervisor would see it through.
    Thanks again,

    Doug Diboll

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