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The eyesores of Eureka: Graffiti on businesses, abandoned buildings

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EUREKA, Calif. - Lyle Rychlik and Jessie James are living their dream: they are the proud owners of JL Automotive in Old Town Eureka. However, they are unhappy with how graffiti has affected the maintenance of their business.

"This has been my dream for all my life to open an automotive business," Rychlik said. "I finally got this opportunity about three months ago."

JL Automotive opened its doors about a month ago, and the owners said they have put hours of hard work into fixing the building.

Despite their efforts, though, graffiti seems to be a neverending story.

"We have to drive by every morning on our way to work just to see if there's any graffiti," Rychlik said. "If there was, we stop and clean it off the windows or grab a can of paint in the back room and paint it back up again."

They said it was not long before the fresh coast of red paint outside their business was tagged.

"We scrubbed the building ourself, we painted ourself, and we spend a lot of money on paint," James said. "Totally sucked, totally sucked,"

According to the city's code enforcement officer Matt Morgan, the burden to remove graffiti falls on businesses.

"Ultimately, it goes back to the property owner. That's the unfortunate thing," Morgan said.

A similar case is the abandoned building where the Eureka K-Mart once stood on Broadway Street.

The owner of the building is responsible for its upkeep, but according to Morgan, K-Mart holds the lease until July of next year, and the owner wants them to clean the abandoned space.

"It's like the first thing you see when you come into Eureka and it's the last thing you see when you leave," Morgan said. "We want it cleaned up. Leaving a big building like that vacant; it's only going to get worse."

North Coast News reached out to K-Mart offices and they have not responded.

Morgan said building owners end up paying the price. He said businesses are not happy when he sends letters asking them to clean graffiti, or they will be fined. He said there is a reason for the crackdown, though.

"We just want, and we've seen it, that if you clean up quickly, it stays away," Morgan said.

Morgan said fines will be sent to the owner of the abandoned K-Mart building starting next week.

And as for Rychlik and James, they said they will continue to remove graffiti from their business and neighboring shops. They said it takes a community to keep vandalism away from their neighborhood.

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