Artist Edythe Boone removed a mural from the vacant lot at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street on Feb. 2 due to multiple instances of defacement from graffiti and anticipated development of the lot.
The fenced property — which has been vacant since the Berkeley Inn, the lot’s former occupant, was destroyed in a 1986 fire — will likely be developed along with adjacent properties into a six-story building, pending city approval. The development site also includes the 25-cent store that once displayed Boone’s mural on its south-facing wall.
The 18-panel wooden mural, titled “Let a Thousand Parks Bloom,” was painted in the mid-1990s and depicts various members of the Berkeley community, some of whom are now deceased.
For people who know the subjects of the artwork, Boone said, the mural is “totally spiritual and special.”
Boone, 76, said about 20 people — some residents of People’s Park, some homeless — contributed to the mural’s creation.
“What’s so sad about homeless people is that they really are ignored,” Boone said. “There’s a lot of good people that are homeless — a lot of creative people who are homeless.”
Over the years, Boone said, she has scraped graffiti from the mural and repainted it about five times, using her own money to buy supplies and soliciting volunteers from the community. She spent last summer repairing the mural after more graffiti appeared.
“Graffiti is an artistic, creative way of expressing yourself, (but) I wouldn’t go to graffiti and paint all over it,” Boone said. “This idea that they don’t have respect for work that has been done — it hurts very deeply.”
Although she is sad to see it go, Boone said the mural would have had to come down eventually due to construction of a new building on the lot.
For several years, the city urged property owner Ken Sarachan to develop the vacant lot and filed a lawsuit against him in 2012. The lawsuit was dropped in October, after he hired an architect to design a building that would encompass the lot and adjacent property under his ownership.
Sarachan owns several businesses and properties on Telegraph Avenue, including Rasputin Music and Blondie’s Pizza. He could not be reached for comment.
The secretary of the city’s Civic Arts Commission is not aware of any protections specifically for murals on private property, according to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko.
“There’s a real lack of valuing the public artists that create the beautiful space (that we live in),” said Mo Morris, director of “A New Color,” a film about Boone’s career that will be screened in the city this summer.
Boone is currently in search of a new home for the mural — one that is close to People’s Park and close to the people who are attached to the artwork.
“People know that mural — it really means something to them,” Boone said. “It’s like their family.”