The Beach Flats Community Garden and the neighborhood murals have a long connection. The original mural was created in 1993, the same year the garden took shape.
In 1992 community members painted three murals directed by a community artist, Victor Cervantes, with help of many community youth and older residents. Now, over two decades later, the neighborhood is beginning to change – the old La Bahia Apartments have been demolished to begin construction on a large conference hotel, new condos have gone up, and the large murals created in the 1990s, the last remaining public Latino heritage murals, were recently painted over in favor of a more ‘up to date’ and ‘universally appealing’ style.
In 2013 the City decided restoration of the largest of the three murals was too expensive, and hired an artist to paint a new mural. Subsequently, City staff came and painted over the old mural, literally white washed it. Community residents came out to ask what was happening, objected, and eventually stood in the way of the workers. After intense community backlash and a lawsuit against the City, Cervantes and community were offered a formal apology and $30,000 (York 2015). Not long after this decision, in late summer 2015, vandals painted over the remaining two smaller murals, several Spanish language signs, and a piece of art depicting an indigenous farmer in the Beach Flats Garden. The main sign near the entrance of the neighborhood was vandalized to have “Flats” taken out of “Beach Flats Community”. The vandals were not found but the clear racism in these attacks upset many inside and outside the neighborhood. While participating in the repainting of one of the murals, a representation of the Virgin Guadalupe, garden volunteers encountered another side to the issue. A middle-aged white woman who had bought a house in the neighborhood several years before came and demanded we stop repainting this mural, claiming it was offensive to her because of its religious content and not in keeping with the new direction the community should go in.