Two years ago, Marilyn Phelps gave her tenants permission to paint the colorful, monster-filled mural on the wall of her rental property—at Eighth Avenue Northeast and Northeast 50th Street—hoping to ward off taggers who had repeatedly defaced a large concrete retaining wall on the property. The mural worked, but last week, Phelps received a letter from the city, demanding she clean up the "vandalism" or face fines of up to $5,000.

Ironically, she never should have gotten the letter. The city keeps a list of "legal" graffiti walls and, according to Andy Ryan, spokesman for Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), which cleans up graffiti on public property, "[We] got overwhelmed with complaints before we got to check [the address] against the mural list. [Phelps] fell through the cracks." Ryan says SPU will not be fining Phelps and, obvioulsy, she doesn't need to paint over the mural.

Regardless, Phelps is frustrated by the experience and spitefully, it would seem, plans to paint over the mural even if it becomes a haven for taggers.