102-year-old Oakland man ordered to clean up graffiti on fence or pay thousands

Runaway graffiti, sometimes called urban art, has often been cited as a major sign of urban decay and disrespect for private and public property. While there are rules against graffiti, enforcing it sometimes causes more trouble than it might be worth. 

In fact, like enforcing any printed law, it takes judgment and discernment to know how and when.

Wheelchair user, Oakland-born, 102-year-old, Victor Silva, Sr. often finds graffiti painted onto the back fence of his Oakland home. He has lived here and paid taxes for 80 years.

Earlier this month, he got a violation citation from the City of Oakland to remove it by Tuesday the 19th or face an $1100 fine, plus an additional $1277 for each failed re-inspection.

"It was so absurd, it's like a joke. If you drive around the city and see the graffiti everywhere, it's just I don't know what to say," said daughter-in-law Elena Silva.

"…thought that somebody's crazy," said Silva Sr.

In his younger years before the wheelchair, he often painted over the graffiti himself. 

"Just had a roller and a paintbrush and just painted it. It was very easy because I was a contractor, you know. I'll be 103 in two months or so. That slowed it up a little bit, you know," said Silva Sr.

These days, that task falls to his 70-year-old son, Victor Silva Jr. 

"It's hard to keep up with it because as soon as we get it painted, It's gonna be graffiti on it again, and it won't last," said Silva Jr.

Just up the street, a big utility box had six different kinds of graffiti on it.

The family owns a nearby small commercial which has been broken into three times in the last year. On one occasion, Silva Jr. found a person inside. In each case, he called 911. 


Victor Silva, Sr., who is 102 years old, faces thousands of dollars in fines unless he removes graffiti from a fence on his Oakland property.

"And I'm put on hold every time. So it's hard to understand where our tax dollars are going. They can't answer 911, but they can come out and hassle you about a fence?"

As far as living up to 103: "Very easy. Just keep breathing and, you know, behave yourself," he said. 

"I would hate to think that there [are] other hundred-year-old people that are being harassed like this. Oakland has to change. The system is not working." said Silva Jr.

The city inspector contacted KTVU and said he would do an immediate inspection and, presumably, cancel the citation.