Monday, April 30, 2012

Knitting Guy given 10 days to remove stop sign flowers

Lorie Zapf hopes a show of community support will save the stems

By Kelly Davis
stopsignflowerCourtesy of
Back in March, CityBeat columnist Enrique Limon wrote about the "Knitting Guy" (aka, Bryan) who'd been adding knitted green stems to stop signs in Clairemont. Bryan (who asked that Limon not use his last name) acknowledged it was a form of vandalism but added, “It seems to be tolerated by the authorities because it’s pretty innocuous; it doesn’t really alter the object that gets yarn-bombed.”

Seems that the authorities aren't as tolerant as he thought. Yesterday, Bryan sent this update to backers of his Kickstarter campaign:

I started planting flowers in earnest starting March 1st. The 100th one was planted last night.

Along the way I have made many new friends, finding others that share my passions for knitting and crazy stuff. The idea of 100 stop signs turned into flowers is kind of silly on the face of it. I was often asked why I was doing it, and "just 'cause" doesn't seem like a good answer.

I still not sure why, but at least now it's done. Clairemont is covered in them. If you haven't seen it, check out

But today I got an email from Bill Harris who works for the city. I had expected it, and was considering an obstinate stance. After a 15 minute phone call, I decided to work with them, and plan an ending.

He started the call with "Congratulations on making it to 100." He explained how people within the city had gone to great lengths to find a way to keep them. They even contacted other cities to find out what they did. "Even Berkeley takes them down," he told me. The problem is that the stop sign is a traffic sign. 

It's really cool they let us finish, and that their first reaction was researching a positive solution. But, now we have 10 days to remove them. After that, if a city worker comes across one, they will remove it.

I am still coming up with the details, and I welcome any suggestions. 

He included a letter from city spokesperson Bill Harris:

The City is forced to announce that the Stop Sign Flowers must come down. Even with the great community spirit this effort has generated, there are just too many restrictions to overcome. City staff looked through state law and local policies trying to find some way of allowing the flowers to remain in place. Unfortunately, particularly with traffic control signs and including all other City assets, there is just no way to retain the works where they now are.
We hope that the flower-makers will work with other site owners - private businesses, other agencies, business improvement districts and community groups - to find new homes for the flowers. This is a fun program that should easily capture the imagination of our communities in other, less restricted, locations.
City crews will not remove any of the installations for the next ten days unless they become a hazard. It is hoped that those who originally installed the flowers will take that time to remove and preserve the work. Following the ten day period, City crews will be instructed to remove and dispose of anything affixed to City assets as it is seen or reported. The yarn and leaf structures cannot be saved when removed by City staff.
I will be available to answer specific questions about the City's direction via email:
But the Knitting Guy's got a fan in City Councilmember Lorie Zapf, whose district includes Clairemont. As Zapf tweeted yesterday: 
Alex Bell, Zapf's spokesperson, said in an email that Zapf called Bill Harris to see if there was any way to keep the yarn bombs. Harris said that perhaps community support would sway higher ups to let the stems be, or to at least come up with a compromise. Zapf's asking that letters in favor of keeping the stop sign stems be emailed to

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