Legal loophole could give property owners an excuse to not clean up graffiti

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Seattle graffiti

SEATTLE - A legal loophole could give property owners an excuse to not clean up graffiti like they're legally supposed to in the City of Seattle.

The old Tubs Building is a prime example of a landlord taking advantage of that loophole. The owner has declared the mass of graffiti on his abandoned building "art" that he allows to be there. That move gives him First Amendment protection, and stops the city from fining him more than $100 a day for not removing it.

"The city dump is an interesting place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there," said a woman who runs a books store across from Tubs.

She lamented the general mess created by artists and vandals. She also was concerned about the drug problems that the abandoned building draws to it.

A spokesman for the City of Seattle said there is not much they can do about the loophole. He said most landlords are responsive to graffiti and remove it quickly.

The Fremont Aurora Wallingford Neighbors group has fought to keep graffiti off a series of vacated motels along Aurora Avenue. There is some fear of any loophole that might allow more graffiti in their neighborhood.

"We like art," said Linda Clifton of FAWN. "But just to sprawl junk on a wall is not the same thing."