By Beth Treffeisen
After numerous run-ins with graffiti taggers along the side and front of the Casa Cuong grocery store at the corner of Tremont and West Canton Streets in the South End, the owner, A Vann Tran decided to stem the problem by painting over the plywood and brick in red, not knowing it was a violation of the South End Landmarks Commission (SELC).
Tran was brought before the SELC to rectify the unapproved painting of brick masonry at a hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 5. After an outpouring of community support for the small corner store, the Commission decided to give some leeway to the painting violation.
“We certainly understand that no crime was done here; it just shouldn’t be painted,” said Commissioner John Freeman.
Since the graffiti problem is so rampant in the location, the Commission voted to allow the paint on the brick to remain until it happens again. The Commission asked that an intermediate coat of paint is placed between the brick and outdoor paint to help protect it.
In addition, they asked that the front façade and step area is painted in a new approved color and as graffiti occurs, that the paint along the wall on West Canton Street match and that it won’t go beyond the lentils.
From community comments, the Commission determined that this was not the first time the brick has been painted over. Before this, Tran contacted the Graffiti Busters to remove the graffiti that simply left patches of the wall painted over.
Through the translation of his son, Tran said that he had contacted the Graffiti Busters on multiple occasions, but didn’t get a response this previous time. In an effort to make his storefront look cleaner Tran decided to be proactive and paint over the walls himself.
The Commission asked that the Graffiti Busters be contacted to learn what type of paint they used to cover up the graffiti.
“There will be no fee, and we understand that you were acting in good faith,” said Freeman. “The Graffiti Busters should be responsible.”
Freeman said that over time the paint will degrade the brick, and that is why they typically don’t allow any brick in the South End to be painted.
Public comment at the hearing showed clear support of the store’s owner who has lived in the area for over 30 years. Residents said he always keeps the corner clean, and that even though the painted over brick is not ideal, it looks a lot better now than it once did.
“Mr. Vann Tran is a very responsible person and keeps the sidewalk clean,” said Craig Speck of the Ellis South End Neighborhood Association. “He has a pride in what he does.”
Speck said that Tran is very diligent in removing the graffiti and often paints over it the next day.
Jane Siegel, another South End resident, agreed saying that graffiti problem has been an ongoing problem for years, and that Tran has just gone over it with a paintbrush.
“The problems with graffiti is taxing at this spot and is a real consideration,” said Freeman. “We should allow the paint on brick here because the graffiti is only going to happen again.”