California man, ordered to cover boat, adds mural, causes double takes

Ordered to put his boat out of sight behind a 6-foot-tall fence, a Seaside resident and his artistic neighbor decided to paint a photorealistic mural of the vessel on the fence.

The idea for the little jab at City Hall was sparked a year ago when Etienne Constable received a notice from the city of Seaside requesting that he comply with a municipal code regarding parking restrictions for non-passenger vehicles, such as boats.

According to the municipal code, the boat needed to be behind a 6-foot-high fence, so it wouldn’t be visible from the street.

Constable has been a resident of Seaside for 29 years and previously parked a sailboat on his property long before he put this vessel in the driveway. The 19-foot-long Arima 19 Sea Ranger, named Might as Well, has been on his property now for the last four years.

He said he was surprised and unaware of the city code about non-passenger vehicles.

“We’ve been here for a long time,” Constable said, “and nobody had ever said anything before.”

Last year, the city hired a community enhancement staffer to identify code enforcement violations throughout the city that needed to be remedied, said Nick Borges, acting city manager and Seaside police chief.

If the boat wasn’t concealed, the notice stated noncompliance was punishable by a first offense of a $100 fee, according to Constable.

He started to look around his neighborhood and noticed that homes with fenced-in boats “didn’t necessarily look good in my estimation,” Constable said. But he didn’t want to disregard the notice, either.

Two people kneel as they paint on a fence in a sunny driveway.

The boat mural, by Hanif Panni, takes shape on Etienne Constable’s fence outside his home in Seaside, Calif.

(Hanif Panni)

With a little brainstorming on how to put a creative spin on the situation, Constable reached out to his next-door neighbor, Hanif Panni, an artist who works with different mediums including murals.

Panni said he saw how upset his neighbor was by the situation, especially because Constable had to pave his driveway to install the fence.

“He kept asking for my input on the design of the mural and what it could possibly look like,” Panni said.

At first they joked about having him paint a boat on the fence, a funny way to make the “eyesore” visible. Then they decided to do just that.

Artist Hanif Panni painted a boat on his neighbor's fence.

Artist Hanif Panni painted a boat on his neighbor’s fence, since his neighbor was ordered by the city of Seaside to cover the vessel with the wall.

(Hanif Panni)

The feedback was almost immediate from neighbors and social media users who applauded the pair for their creativity and humor. Other neighbors have already asked Panni if he would paint their boats on their fences.

“Creativity is always a good tool to use against bureaucracy,” Panni said, “if it’s done thoughtfully and with the rules in mind.”

Borges isn’t offended by the mural, saying the creative response to the city’s municipal code helped create a better relationship among neighbors.

“It does help cities like us get better” and identify whether some city codes should be enforced a certain way, he said.

Constable said he’s tickled by all the positive attention the mural has gotten. He’s seen drivers slow down to get a better look at it, and friends have called saying they’ve seen pictures of the mural online and recognize his boat.

“I’ve been laughing continuously for the last few days,” he said. “It’s just hilarious to me that so many people appreciate my sense of humor and way of looking at the work.”

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