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IRVINE : City Marks Tougher Stance on Graffiti

The City Council made good this week on an earlier promise to escalate its graffiti fight by giving initial approval to an ordinance meant to curb the vandalism.

The council endorsed an ordinance that would outlaw the sale of large marking pens to minors and require owners to remove graffiti quickly from private property if the city demands it.

“People are incensed that their beautiful community, their fences and property, are being defaced,” Mayor Sally Anne Sheridan said.

Graffiti has never been a major problem in Irvine, which has little organized gang activity, police said, but the amount of graffiti did increase over the summer. City Council members in July said they had been receiving increasing graffiti complaints and asked city officials to propose solutions.

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The proposed ordinance, which the council approved Tuesday, 4 to 1, requires a second vote before being enacted.

If it passes again, residents will not be required to pay for graffiti removal from their properties as long as the city performs the work. City workers would only remove or paint over the graffiti but not an entire defaced wall or structure.

City Councilman Bill Vardoulis voted against the proposal, saying that barring the sale of large marking pens--those with a tip wider than 4 millimeters--will not work unless the whole county or state cooperates.

“If it’s not done everywhere, it just gets to be, ‘Who knows somebody’s older brother who can drive over to Tustin to get the right size?’ ” he said.

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The council also voted to submit the ordinance to the county chapter of the League of California Cities so other cities can consider barring such markers.

Irvine’s ordinance would make it illegal for anyone younger than 18 to carry a large marking pen “for the purpose of applying graffiti.”

The proposed restrictions mirror a recent state law prohibiting the sale of spray paint cans to minors and possession of such materials by minors.

Violators of Irvine’s ordinance would be subject to a $50 citation for the first offense and $100 for the second, City Atty. John L. Fellows III said.

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