Activist seeks consistency in color of Kendall walls

Martha Backer is pictured next to a wall at SW 104th Street and 142nd Avenue that is the color of Neapolitan ice cream.

Shouldn’t graffiti paint-outs or aging Kendall walls keep a color consistency?

“The county commission should pass an ordinance to paint walls the same color on county roads, “declared Martha K. Backer, a West Kendall community activist.

“Paint and brushes could be provided from fines when people do community service from graffiti offenses or any other street crime,” she said, after quizzing county officials about improving areas of splotched and mismatched colors on SW 104th Street walls.

A Kendall resident for “over 50 years,” as she says with pride, Backer has been outspoken in community affairs, championing a civic center that has yet to be built, although budgeted as a future county capital bonding project.

She once vowed she would chain her son to royal palms on a SW 104th Street median before a planned road-widening in her area, while leading a citizen’s campaign that eventually blocked the $6.4 million project.

That’s why county commissioners and public works officials listen when Backer makes a point about finding a way to paint out community wall graffiti without creating a miss-match of color tones.

“A few years ago, Team Metro painted the wall along 104th Street along the Calusa boundaries,” she recalled. “That homeowner association was no longer viable, and it was a mess. For the past few years, it has been one color, but now one owner painted the beige wall red behind his home.

“Such inconsistencies go on along SW 147th Avenue where a wood fence in a one-block stretch is about five different colors, just opposite the Hammocks where the walls are kept immaculate,” she said.

“Why do the walls around town make me crazy? Almost 30 years ago, working for an HOA with a wall along Sunset, I got a call from a woman upset that the wall was in bad condition and needed painting and care.

“I thought: Doesn’t this woman have anything better to do? We were in a recession, newly built homes in Kendale Lakes were totally empty with no one buying and she’s worried about the wall,” Backer said.

“Now I can see how bad a community can look with decaying walls, along with those painted different colors. Once again, we’re in a recession, and need to do the little aesthetic things to keep things looking a little better.”

David Cardenas, chief, Right-of-Way Aesthetics and Assets Management for Miami-Dade County Parks, the most recent county official to hear her suggestions, replied in an email: “Regarding the walls, they are the responsibilities of the individual homeowner associations, private communities or private homeowners, unless they are part of a special taxing district.”

Donald L. Tock Jr., Special Taxing District chief, subsequently sent Backer a “package” on how to begin a grassroots petition that requires 50 percent of resident property owner signatures to go before the county commission.

“There are many legal issues to be resolved over control of private property, in other words, the imposition of a common color scheme in the public domain,” he said.

Backer responded, “With policing being cut, no doubt the graffiti paint-outs may increase so splotched walls will also increase.

“That’s why I thought generic wall paint for different color tones could result in walls with one consistent color so graffiti cover-ups wouldn’t be as noticeable.”

Not about to begin drawing petitions for a taxing district in West Kendall, she reasons that “With commissioners who don’t want us to incorporate, it hardly makes sense to impose a tax district for an issue like this, especially during a recession with the foreclosures, and all.

“Even so, the county ought to come up with a reasonable and low-cost solution just for aesthetic reasons, especially at a time when keeping up property values is vital to all county homeowners whose homes are enclosed by a community wall,” Backer concluded.

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