Eyes on the Street: Law Breakers Paint Rainbow Crosswalks on Telegraph

Police stumped by the mysteriously pretty crosswalk case

Some 30 people, identities unknown, illegally painted this crosswalk on Telegraph before fleeing. Photo: Dave Campbell
Some 30 people, identities unknown, illegally painted this crosswalk on Telegraph before fleeing. Photo: Dave Campbell

This past Sunday a group of scofflaw street painters put in rainbow crosswalks at Telegraph and 66th in Oakland.

Oakland Pride, advocates for the LGBTQ community in the East Bay, has lobbied unsuccessfully for three years to get rainbow crosswalks painted at this location, home of the White Horse Inn, the oldest continuously operating gay and lesbian bar in the United States.

The Temescal Business Improvement District (BID) joined the effort a few months ago, and, together, they were calling city staff every day. “We really wanted it to happen before the Oakland Pride celebration on September 9,” explained Shifra De Benedictis-Kessner, Executive Director of the BID.

But they weren’t getting anywhere with Oakland’s Department of Transportation. The department has its “Paint the Town” program, which permits people to paint murals on the street. The BID and Pride thought maybe they could do something under that program, but that is restricted to low-volume streets and prohibits residents from painting any traffic markings, such as a crosswalk.

The BID and Pride reached out for help from Dave Campbell, Advocacy Director for Bike East Bay, who agreed to help them navigate the city bureaucracy to try and get it done. Campbell wasn’t doing the work in his normal capacity for Bike East Bay, but just as a local Oakland guy who knows about city politics. He worked with Pride, the BID and the mayor’s office to set up a meeting. The mayor’s office couldn’t help them with the crosswalks either, but they did suggest a block party instead.

A block party is better than nothing, so the BID did the application.

The application was approved and the permit was issued for last Sunday. A stretch of Telegraph was closed and detours were set up by the police around the intersection with 66th.

And then the ‘block party’ happened, but things didn’t (or did) go according to plan. Some 30 people appeared out of nowhere, crashed the party, and painted rainbow crosswalks at the intersection. Campbell managed to snap the lead photo of these scofflaw block-party crashers before they disappeared back into the neighborhood. So far nobody has been positively identified. Law enforcement is hard not at work on the case.

The new crossings, right after the paint dried. Photo: Dave Campbell
The new crossings, right after the paint dried. Photo: Dave Campbell

Streetsblog does not want to appear to support this kind of scofflaw behavior (even if we totally do). And traffic engineers can quibble about whether the illegally painted crosswalks are regulation, but here’s what it looked like before:

Conditions before the guerrillas came. Image: Google
Conditions before the guerrillas came. Image: Google

Streetsblog heard a rumor that the illegal painting took two and a half hours–about 90 minutes for the first coat, and then an hour for the second. It took until about 7 p.m. at night for the concrete paint to dry fully. But that’s just a rumor. Streetsblog probably has no direct knowledge of how long it took.

Streetsblog isn’t saying how or when, but there are also rumors that Oakland Pride will hold a ‘block party’ this coming Sunday on Broadway at the intersection of 20th, starting at 9 a.m. Word has it the band of scofflaw painters could show up again and that they happily accept volunteers.

  • 🌈 Fabulous!

  • Bruce

    This article’s trolling levels are over 9000.

  • love

  • david vartanoff

    Thanks for improving our neighborhood.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Still a really crappy intersection. Why don’t they plant some trees or something? Also the traffic lights should be on the same side of the street that the cars stop on, not across the street.

  • Tom F. Murphy

    Interesting take on all of this. As a local resident, very happy to see this idea come to fruition. Now we just need the city to embrace and officially adopt this. The crosswalks are a wonderful edition to this section of the Oakland / Berkeley border ( that is often overlooked ) and has a universal feeling for the district.

  • jhfink

    It looks fabulous. I drive by there everyday and it makes me smile.

  • Rob Alfieri

    Bravo! When a community is not being heard and given equal consideration, a little constructive protest is in order. There was no destruction of property. It’s no different than the murals permitted. It is art and it looks beautiful. The rainbow represents equality for us all, not just the LGBTQ community. 🏳️‍🌈

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