‘Let’s take care of it.’ Laguna Beach man starts graffiti clean-up at Thousand Steps sea cave

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Laguna Beach resident Brad Wood uses an electric drill to grind paint off a sea cave near Thousand Steps Beach on Feb. 23. Photo by Mitch Ridder, Contributing Photographer

A Laguna Beach man started removing graffiti Monday from a sea cave near Thousand Steps Beach after reading a thread of comments on a local Facebook group.

Brad Wood, 57, of Laguna Beach said he’s grown to love the South Laguna beach over the last 40 years. The vandalism first reported on Feb. 14 was intolerable, Wood said, adding “you can’t attack mother nature.”

“When I saw everyone complaining there was no real solution being offered—just a lot of hate and pain—so I thought, ‘let’s take care of it,’” he said.

Wood invited cousins, Dustin Perkins of La Mirada and his five-year-old son, to join him in helping remove the graffiti. The group used electric power drills with wire and nylon brushes to remove the spray paint from the rock but quickly learned they’d need many more hands to complete the job.

“While I was in there, I saw how porous [the rock] was and how deep the paint was,” Wood said. “I started to realize that we are doing the same basic thing—by trying to fix it I was also damaging our mother nature.”

City officials opened a code enforcement case shortly after learning the sea cave was vandalized, Marine Safety Chief Kevin Snow said. OC Parks owns and operates Thousand Steps but Laguna Beach has taken charge of the clean-up.

The graffiti is actually located on private property, Community Development Director Marc Wiener wrote in a Feb. 17 email.

“We are working with the property owners on cleaning up the graffiti and expect to have the situation resolved soon,” Wiener wrote.

There are at least three concerns with city crews simply sandblasting the paint away without an inquiry. First, private property owners are usually saddled with removing graffiti from their land. Second, public agencies are generally prohibited by federal and state law from discharging any material directly into the ocean. Lastly, city officials are generally cautious about impacting the geological conditions of a cliffside supporting multi-million homes uphill.

Lt. Jim Cota, a spokesperson for the Laguna Beach Police Department, said also he wants to see the graffiti removed as quickly as possible.

“I appreciate the citizens’ efforts in trying to remove the graffiti themselves, but that is not encouraged,” Cota wrote in an email. “We have a highly-skilled Public Works Department that is trained in properly removing graffiti and fix any damage caused by vandalism.”

On Monday, Wood deliberately avoided sanding a section of the sea wall that’s covered with algae to protect the marine environment, he said.

Thousand Steps Beach was private during Wood’s childhood. When trash would pile up, Wood and his friends would pick a day and start tidying up the beach. He sees the unfortunate vandalism as an opportunity for the community to come together. Wood hasn’t set a date and time for continuing the graffiti clean-up. 

“We’re Lagunans and we should all unite and care for what we have the best can,” he said.

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