It’s a quiet morning at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Maltman Avenue in Silver Lake except for the roar of traffic and the sound of paper being ripped off utility poles.
Bright yellow posters promoting a “Buy Local” sale; black & white photocopied flyers for a concert at The Echo; a faded “Garage Sale” sign handwritten in marker – all of them get ripped down by a thin Silver Lake woman as she walks down the block. She wants to remain anonymous, most likely because she wants to spare her husband the embarrassment, about her years long obsession to keep the signal and telephone poles – as well as the newsstands and mailboxes- free of illegal signs and stickers.
“Look at that poor pole,” she said of one poster and staple encrusted pole near Millie’s Cafe.
The Silver Lake artist is one of the residents who are engaged in a guerrilla street war with those who post the very same signs. She has been confronted by one sign guy but has seen other residents also stripping poles clean. In Historic Filipinotown, David Rockello said residents would thank him as he spent about eight months yanking day-glo band fliers, carpet cleaning ads and other posters from street lights and traffic signals. “No one will stop them until they start fining people exorbitant sums of money,” said Rockello, who would take trash bags filled with the signs to neighborhood council meeting to try and win support for more clean ups.
City contractors are also kept busy yanking illegal signs. In March, Central City Action Committee, a non profit that cleans up tagging and illegal signs from MacArthur Park to Highland Park, removed 873 signs and stickers on everything from traffic signal boxes to trees. But with many people upset over bigger forms of urban blight, like billboards and McMansions, the residents on Pole Patrol on their own.
Here’s what the Silver Lake poster puller has to say after five years on the beat:
What’s tougher to remove: the signs that are stapled or taped? “Taped are much harder and require a cutting tool, like an old staple, tack or pushpin to slice through the tape.”
Do you take a took with your, scissors or knife, or do you do this by hand? “In the early days I did, but now the poles are covered with rusty staples, nails, screws and push pins. So, I basically harvest my cutters from a nearby pole or palm tree trunk.”
Have you been confronted by a sign installer? “I’ve only been confronted once by a man who had watched me removing signs as I walked down Sunset with my husband and dog. He apparently made his living posting the very signs I was removing and ran across the street and asked me who I was working for? I replied, ‘myself, I’m a resident of the neighborhood.’ His next query was, ‘Don’t you care about me?’ Not knowing what to say to this comment I said ” No’ and we moved on.”
What does your dog and husband do while you are on Pole Patrol? “She finds the notes left behind by other dogs on the pole bases much more interesting than the ones I’m removing and really just wants to keep going. My husband rolls his eyes and waits patiently.”