GUEST EDITORIAL: City Of Burien Has Ordinance On Graffiti Removal, Yet Still Has Grafitti On Its Own Sign

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by Jim Branson

Despite the city’s own ordinance against graffiti, the graffiti on this “Welcome to Burien” sign located in Olde Burien has been there for nearly three months.

Here’s a photo that was posted on The B-town Blog on July 19th:

Here’s another photo of the same sign, taken just last week:

Ironically, Burien’s own ordinance (see below or download the PDF here) says it saves money and effort by cleaning up graffiti quickly, before it attracts more graffiti and makes more work.

Why, then, is the City of Burien inviting more vandalism and crime by leaving this graffiti up on its very own sign, in violation of its very own ordinance, which stipulates removal “within 5 days”?

From the City’s municipal code:



WHEREAS, in 1999 the City Council of the City of Burien adopted Ordinance No. 270 (codified at Chapter 8.55 BMC) establishing new requirements for removal of graffiti found upon public and private property in the City of Burien, and

WHEREAS, the graffiti removal regulations currently provide that all graffiti upon public or private property that is visible from a public road or right of way shall be removed by the property within ten five days of notice given by the City, and

WHREAS, the graffiti removal regulations do not specifically prohibit the use of very hard and sharp objects to etch words, designs, and other markings on glass or other surfaces which is a relatively new type of graffiti, and

WHEREAS, the City finds that, graffiti on fences, walls, glass, buildings and other structures attracts more graffiti and invites additional vandalism and crime; unabated graffiti sends a message that the community is not concerned about the appearance of its business districts and neighborhoods; the presence of graffiti generates neighborhood fear and instability, signals an increase in crime, lowers property values, hurts business revenue, is economically detrimental to the City, and is a sign of urban decay; the National Crime Prevention Council reports that studies have determined that if vandalism and graffiti is repaired or removed within 24 – 48 hours, there is little recurrence; by covering graffiti as soon as possible, the vandal is deprived of the effort and time it took to vandalize or tag property; that expeditious graffiti removal is the best deterrent to future incidents; that a quick removal response by property owners is the key to successfully combating graffiti; unless the City acts to remove graffiti from public and private property, the graffiti tends to remain and other properties then become the target of graffiti; and, entire neighborhoods are affected and become less desirable places in which to be, all to the detriment of the health, safety and welfare of the City and its residents, and

WHEREAS, the Council finds that graffiti is a public nuisance, and

WHEREAS, the City Council finds that amending Chapter 8.55 BMC to establish a shorter period to remove graffiti and to prohibit the etching as a form of graffiti will help prevent the spread of graffiti vandalism and will support the City’s program for the prevention and removal of graffiti, and

WHEREAS, the City Council intends, through the adoption of this Ordinance, to provide additional enforcement tools to protect public and private property from acts of graffiti vandalism and defacement, all in support of the general health, safety and welfare of the City and its residents;


Section 1. Amendment of BMC 8.55.010 (Definitions). Section 8.55.010 of the Burien Municipal Code is hereby amended to read as follows:
8.55.010 Definitions.

(1) “Graffiti” means the defacing, damaging or destroying by etching, spraying of paint or marking of ink, chalk, dye or other similar substances on public or private buildings, structures, places and properties.

2) “Graffiti abatement procedure” means the abatement procedure which identifies graffiti, issues notice to the landowner to abate the graffiti, and cures in absence of response.

(3) “Private contractor” means any person with whom the city shall have duly contracted to remove graffiti.

Section 2. Amendment of Section 8.55.040 (Graffiti – Notice of removal). Section 8.55.040 of the Burien Municipal Code is hereby amended to read as follows:

8.55.040Graffiti – Notice of removal.

(1) Whenever the city manager, or designee, determines that graffiti exists on any public or private buildings, structures, and places which are visible to any person utilizing any public road, parkway, alley, sidewalk or other right-of-way within the city and when weather conditions permit the painting of exterior surfaces, the city manager or designee shall cause a notice to be issued to abate such nuisance. The property owner shall have 10 5 business days after the date of the notice to remove the graffiti or the same will be subject to abatement by the city.

(2) The notice to abate graffiti pursuant to this section shall cause a written notice to be served upon the owner(s) of the affected premises, as such owners’ name and address appears on the last property tax assessment rolls of King County, Washington. If there is no known address for the owner, the notice shall be sent in care of the property address. The notice required by this section may be served in any one of the following manners:

(a) By personal service on the owner, occupant or manager of the property;

(b) By U.S. first class mail, or registered or certified mail addressed to the owner at the last known address of said owner. If this address is unknown, the notice will be sent to the property address.

If notice is served by U.S. first class mail, notice shall be deemed to have been received three (3) days after depositing such notice, postage prepaid, in the United States mail in a properly address envelope.

Section 3. Severability. Should any section, paragraph, sentence, clause or phrase of this ordinance, or its application to any person or circumstance, be declared unconstitutional or otherwise invalid for any reason, or should any portion of this ordinance be pre-empted by state or federal law or regulation, such decision or pre-emption shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this ordinance or its application to other persons or circumstances.

Section 4. Effective Date. This ordinance shall be published in the official newspaper of the City, and shall take effect and be in full force five (5) days after the date of publication.


Monica Lusk, City Clerk
Approved as to form:
______________________________ Christopher Bacha, Kenyon Disend, PLLC Interim City Attorney

So then…WHEREAS, the City of Burien has chosen to ignore its very own ordinance on its very own property…

THEREFORE whatever shall we, as its residents, do…?

Please take our Poll or Comment below…

Do you think the City of Burien is doing enough about graffiti removal?

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14 Responses to “GUEST EDITORIAL: City Of Burien Has Ordinance On Graffiti Removal, Yet Still Has Grafitti On Its Own Sign”
  1. Jay says:

    Oh for Pete’s sake… Take a look around everyone, graffiti is all around us. It has been on our neighbors fence for over a month and I’m about to just paint over it myself to restore the original look of the community. Don’t expect the government to do everything. It’s hard enough for them to collect more taxes as it is!

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  2. Jim Branson says:

    I usually don’t wait for the city to act. When graffiti happens in my neighborhood, I snap a picture with my phone, in case the police want to know about it, and then I clean it off within 24 hours. I have done this dozens of times, in the parks and on the street. If I had the expertise, I would have just cleaned up the “Welcome to Burien” sign myself, a long time ago. My guess is that it requires the attention of a sign painter.

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  3. leah says:

    Does someone want me to paint the sign?

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    • Jim Branson says:


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      • leah says:

        i just sent an email to discuss the specifics of when. i’m on board for getting this done quickly but the doppler radar is calling for rain the next 4-5 days. as soon as i have the paint needed – the 1st day that abides i’ll be there.

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  4. Mac says:

    Maybe if the city’s code enforcer Jim Bibby spent less time harassing citizens and more time doing his job this would have been resolved within the time allotted to remove graffiti. Quite possibly he needs a refresher on what that time frame actually is – be it on the city’s sign or elsewhere. Or is this another case of his “selective” enforcement?

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  5. Ernie and Vera says:

    I think it is so interesting in what the City of Burien deems important and worth their time enforcing…….like anything that might result in $$$$$$ for the City. Harrassing new businesses seems to be a favorite pastime, with the ruse that it is supervising “code enforcement”….;. and 2 hr parking on 152nd??? It is almost impossible to shop ;and have lunch, or get your hair done within a two hour window. Why not 3 or 4 hr parking??? Possibly this would be a problem for some businesses, I’m just asking. So, while I am asking, why does the City allow all the “junk” on the sidewalk at the Pet store next to Mick Kelly’s???? It looks disgusting and totally junky for a business. City: Get your codes in perspective…….please. Encourage new business and clean up the existing ones……

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  6. Sam says:

    I am a Burien native & graffiti artist of 20 years. I have solved these types of problems in Seattle with the help of Business Owners. By putting up public murals in heavily tagged areas, you will automatically detour most graffiti taggers, as well as make the city more colorful. I am will ing to help in this way if the city can provide a small budget for supplies plus i patrol all of my work and fix on the spot.

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    • Jim Branson says:

      Mr. Swanson, please explain what your comment has to do with the topic at hand. The City already has an approved and proven method of reducing graffiti. Clean it up quickly, and you save money and effort. It says so in their own ordinance, and many studies back this up. All the City has to do is what it is required to do according to its own laws. How would more murals like the one at B/IAS get the city to obey its own laws? From what you are saying–that you police your own work and fix it promptly–it sounds like you agree that the City should have fixed this sign in July?

      Also–and this is purely a matter of personal taste, not a criticism of your work–if I had to choose between the mural at B/IAS and having a bit of tagging, I would prefer the tagging. The point being, we wouldn’t need large murals that celebrate the culture of taggers if the City would just apply a little effort and obey its own laws.

      If what you are saying is that you want all the taggers in the city to focus their vandalism on your mural, instead of tagging public property, then I have no problem with that.

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      • leah says:

        just an observation but; i think sam was pointing out the use of murals as a deterant to vandalism because often times even grafitti artists are looking for an outlet & i believe there is honor among artists & a few grafitti artists might be detered from vandalizing another artists work just out of sheer respect for the artist that did the mural. however, i also know there are a lot of bored teenagers & there will always be that type of vandalism abound – but i believe that was sam’s point about ‘he polices his own work & fixes it on the spot’.

        anyways, that was just my interpretation of what he said.

        it is a matter of opinion. while you don’t like the mural at b/ias, personally i do. however i’m sure there are many who stand on either side of my opinion & as well, your opinion. but even so, i find that in a lot of small towns & cities (especially those in the midst of a makeover/facelift) they can benefit from a few artistic attrations here & there. either the ppl will love it & they’ll discuss it, or the ppl will hate it & they will discuss it – any which way both scenarios will generate a lot of interest & excitement. in my personal opinion for a town that’s trying to shed a skin & grow a bit more these types of conversations can generate a lot of positive energy & momentum & that can only be described as a good thing.

        no anger here. just a personal opinion.

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        • Sam says:

          Thank you for stating what i was trying to say. I offered this idea in the hopes of helping the problem somehow, but honestly compared to other cities the graffiti problem is pretty minor here. Maybe thats due to clean up Jim is talking about. It would be nice if there was a place sanctioned for graffiti art. Maybe next to the skate park?Anyway good luck with the Graffiti problem & i will keep doing what i do.

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  7. Peter says:

    Good article Jim. Thanks for calling the city out.

    As a resident of the approved annex area, I was looking forward to some help from my new city of Burien with the ever increasing Grafitti down north here. It sounds like it’s time to start lowering expectations..again.

    Oh well, I’ll keep on cleaning it up cause I hate it.

    “Goof Off” works well.

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  8. Gangster63 says:

    That’s exactly the strategy which the party successfully followed in the local elections – maximising votes where they were needed. ,

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