Brian McCauley owns Traditions Tattoo shop at 1835 Palm Avenue, an old metal warehouse that once was home to an auto-parts store.
“The neighborhood is messed up” says McCauley, a soon-to-retire Navy sailor. “We have a Tijuana auto-repair-type business next door. I wanted to present a positive image [to the neighborhood], so I discussed with my landlord about painting a mural on the side of the building.
“I talked to a local tagging crew…they either do contract work or work illegally. I told them I wanted a tattoo-theme mural, they showed me some sketches, I told them that [the design] was cool, and then I let them do what they do. I let the artist be the artist. They painted a sacred heart with a nice crown, and they were going to do sun rays on the side, but when they included the name of the shop and their names, that put us in violation of the city signage ordinance.
“The day before we had the crew out to paint the building, we were hit by taggers. That [graffiti] was cleaned up and the mural was started, but then the San Diego code-enforcement officer showed up. She was responding to complaints about the original graffiti, looked at what we were doing, and said, ‘It all has to go.’…
“She said they had tons of calls about the graffiti. She contacted my landlord, who told me the mural had to go. It was artistic. How can you judge something until it’s complete? Where would Andy Warhol be today?...
“I’ve since been told I don’t need a permit for a mural as long as it doesn’t have words, promote drugs, alcohol, violence or gang activity.”
McCauley had the mural painted over and will be presenting plans to his landlord for a new mural without words for the front of his shop.