Taxpayers May Have To Foot Removal Bill For Justin Bieber's Sidewalk Graffiti

Taxpayers May Have To Foot Removal Bill For Justin Bieber's Sidewalk GraffitiBieber graffiti outside Bi-Rite Divisadero. (Photo: Andrew Dudley/Hoodline)
Nuala Sawyer
Published on December 11, 2015

Last night's torrential El Niño rains rinsed the dust off our cars and washed clear the streets—but one eyesore has remained. The widespread sidewalk graffiti advertising Justin Bieber's new album Purpose, which we initially thought might be chalk, appears to be here to stay, and it's likely that SF taxpayers will have to foot the bill for cleaning up the former teen phenom's attempt at guerrilla advertising.

We first spotted the graffiti in the Upper Haight, but tipsters have been seeing it everywhere: Divisadero, Polk Street, Valencia, and SoMa. (In an unfortunate twist, the hashtag on the graffiti—#Nov13—has also been used to share information about the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13th, in which 130 people were killed.) The Bieber graffiti campaign has even spread beyond San Francisco, with New York also wondering why it's all over their streets:

"Using our sidewalks for advertising is unacceptable," said SF Public Works' Rachel Gordon in response to the Bieber graffiti. We've inquired with both Public Works and the City Attorney's office as to when the tags will be cleaned up, and whether Bieber and his labels, Def Jam Recordings and School Boy Records, will be held accountable; we've yet to receive a response from them or from Bieber's label and management. 

While Bieber has embraced graffiti of late (he also used it to announce the track titles for Purpose), he isn't the first to use the streets of San Francisco as a platform for guerrilla-style marketing. In February, Lyft launched a hopscotch-style campaign, with large ads in several locations throughout the city. Other musicians have tried it, too: advertisements for the Arcade Fire album Reflektor were spray-painted on sidewalks in 2013, and some worn versions of them can still be seen today. 

But perhaps the most infamous guerrilla campaign of them all was in 2010, when Zynga, in an attempt to advertise its Mafia Wars game, glued fake $25,000 bills all over the sidewalks of San Francisco, causing a nightmare for Public Works' cleanup crews. The City Attorney's office eventually reached a $45,000 settlement with Davis Elen Advertising of Los Angeles, which was behind the campaign. 

Have you spotted Bieber (well, his ads) on the streets of San Francisco? If so, tell us where in the comments.