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City Paints Over Kids’ Murals Along With Graffiti

July 8, 1986

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ Two murals drawn by children were painted over by city officials who thought they were getting rid of graffiti.

″I’m sort of at a loss to know how they could go out there and not know it was a mural,″ said Gary Serda, an aide to Councilwoman Blanca Alvarado. ″You don’t really try to justify it. It’s an unfortunate incident. Now you try to correct it.″

Dr. Jose Colchado, the artist who supervised the crew of 70 youths in painting the larger mural two years ago, was angrier. ″To me it’s the bureaucracy just rolling along. Someone gives them a slip of paper and says, ‘Go paint a wall,’ and they go paint a wall,″ he said.

The murals were on a masonry wall across from a youth center. One featured brightly colored figures of children and carried out a theme of ″Youth are our future.″ The other warned against PCP use in blue-and-orange letters.

Residents complained in early June to Alvarado and police about graffiti sprawled on vacant parts of the wall. Serda said they notified the Neighborhood Maintenance Department, which is responsible for the city’s graffiti abatement program.

Eventually, somebody issued orders to a maintenance crew and the murals disappeared under a coat of beige paint on Sunday.

Vicki Moore, coordinator of the city’s beautification program, said the mixup also was due in part to the Neighborhood Development Department’s having no record of the murals.

Frank Garcia, supervisor for the maintenance department, said they were just following orders.

″The murals per se had been graffitied over completely. They had to be destroyed. At the time, there was so much graffiti scribbled over the murals you couldn’t even tell what they were,″ Garcia said.

But Janie Perez, director of the youth center, said she ″had to do a double take″ when she walked into her office on Monday.

″The kids were upset. They started coming in and saying, ’Why did they cover the mural?‴ she said.

City officials said they’ll help the center get another mural and also will change policies to avoid a repeat of the mixup. Serda and Moore said the city will offer materials and support for the center for a new mural and perhaps even provide money for the designs.

″You learn from your mistakes,″ Moore said.

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