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Monday, April 29, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Belltown residents see handwriting on wall — and remove it

Seattle Times staff reporter

If you're like Mike Crill, you notice little things: the "pi" symbol tagging a trash bin, the black scribble on a parking meter.

It drives you a little bit crazy. And then you do something about it.

That's why the Belltown resident and a couple dozen of his friends and neighbors spent a sunny Sunday on downtown street corners and in alleyways, armed with rags, sponges, turpentine and paint.

"I've been kind of cleaning up the graffiti between my place and the Market on my own," said Crill, who's lived on Bell Street for two years and takes frequent walks to Pike Place Market. "It's like places where there's white noise. You start to notice it, and it drives you crazy."

Crill came up with the idea for a neighborhood "paint-out" a couple of months ago. He called the city, which donated cleaning supplies and Dumpster-green paint. He distributed fliers and sent e-mails. He solicited donations from restaurants, hair salons and coffee shops. Until about two days ago, he didn't have any volunteers.

"The volunteers were tough," Crill said. "I kind of panicked. But people came through at the last minute."

The Retail Group consulting firm sent 10 people. Tully's sent one volunteer and lots of coffee. A few folks from Republic Parking showed up. So did the guy who cuts Crill's hair at Euphorico Salon.

Sherry Marazita heard about the project from an e-mail list. She lives on Pike Street downtown.

"These are neighborhoods, not just where you shop or go out to eat," Marazita said yesterday as she spray-painted a trash bin near Bell Street. "People live here."

The group spent five hours yesterday scrubbing lampposts and parking meters, painting trash cans and cleaning up building exteriors from Elliott to Third avenues and Virginia to Clay streets. The Buffalo Deli on First Avenue provided free lunch; others donated soft drinks and snacks. The day ended with a cookout at Crill's place.

"It's a good way to get to know your neighbors," said Aaron Ondek, who lives in Crill's building. "We did a community cleanup day a few months ago. It makes the whole area look better."

The goal, Crill said, is to make people think about cleaning up graffiti in their own neighborhoods when they see it.

"If we have enough people so that everyone's doing a block or half a block, it's simple," he said.

Crill also enlisted the help of King County, which sent a 10-person work crew from the Corrections Department to pick up garbage in the neighborhood.

"The graffiti is going to be back. It might even be back tomorrow," Crill said. "But if everybody cleaned up the graffiti every other day, there's no incentive to (tag) again. And that's the goal, to be sure it never sits."

Pam Sitt can be reached at 206-464-2376 or psitt@seattletimes.com.

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