Despite rising home values, more and more people have gravitated to the San Francisco suburb of Brentwood, 45 miles east of California's fourth-largest city. And with growth come the challenges of providing infrastructure that doesn't intrude upon an area's natural beauty.
For the Brentwood Public Works Department, this means hiding a concrete reservoir and keeping it graffiti-free.
To hide the 4-million-gallon reservoir, located above a residential neighborhood and in plain view of a major highway, the department hired local contractors G.S.E. Construction Co. Inc. and Boulderscape Inc. to build an architectural rock wall façade. But keeping graffiti vandals, or taggers, from displaying their “art” on the high-visibility decorative walls posed a greater challenge.
Most structures in the area have smooth concrete and painted surfaces that can be power-washed or repainted when graffitists strike. But because the reservoir walls are stained concrete, with lots of variations and grooves, complete graffiti removal would be next to impossible. Rather than engage in an endless and expensive cycle of removal that would probably damage the stained concrete, Brentwood's infrastructure managers sought to nip graffiti in the bud.
“We looked at alternatives to the problem and saw it as a ‘pay now or pay later' situation,” says Paul Eldredge, assistant director of public works.
SEI Chemical, a Northridge, Calif., manufacturer of graffiti-deterrent coatings, offered one possible solution. The company makes special formulations for each type of material — i.e., smooth or porous — that causes paint, lacquers, enamels, and adhesives to “crawl” together and run off the surface. If a tagger does manage to get his medium to stick, the company also offers removal products.
Initially, Eldredge thought that even with the products' graffiti-proof characteristics, crews still would have to clean up taggings and routinely re-coat the reservoir. “We still saw this as an expensive, rigorous, and never-ending task,” he says.
Even so, he tried the company's GPA-200 (“graffiti-proofer anti-stick”) in 2006. The highly fluorinated and durable clear gloss coating is formulated for applications requiring extremely high-slip characteristics and chemical resistance.
It cost the department about $12,000 to purchase the product, which was applied by a qualified applicator. The coating's holding strong after three years, and Eldredge doesn't think the department could have kept the reservoir in pristine condition without it. He doesn't expect to reapply for another seven years.
Since the coating was applied, graffitists have tried to tag the rock face on five known occasions. Although some proved successful, it only took the public works crew about an hour to clean the markings each time.
“The project has been a roaring success,” Eldredge says. “Although the coatings make it difficult or impossible for graffiti materials to stick, when it does, we can take it off. The word is obviously out, and graffiti is at a minimum.”
To residents living and working near the reservoir and passers-by on a highway bypass, the reservoir not only is hidden, but the attractive façade remains graffiti-free as well.