City says La Jolla’s gold-painted fire hydrants are acts of vandalism


By Ashley Mackin

An unknown person (or persons) has painted at least eight fire hydrants in La Jolla gold. Whatever their intentions, the deed is considered vandalism by the City of San Diego.

At least two hydrants along Nautilus Street and at least six along Coast Boulevard have been coated almost completely with gold paint, with shades of the city-issued yellow paint showing through. (Several have been repainted the city-issued color.)

“Painting the fire hydrants is considered vandalism, plain and simple,” said Arian Collins with the City of San Diego Water Department. “You cannot paint city property any color, even if it’s a nice bright gold.” The cost to remove the paint, clean and prime the hydrants for repainting and paint them the city standard color (including staff time) is $114 each — that’s $912 for the lot.

Collins said there is a specific shade of yellow used to paint all 25,000 hydrants in the city and that firefighters look for that color in emergency situations. “By painting (the hydrants), the vandals are putting those areas in jeopardy,” he explained. “Things get chaotic in a fire situation, and if firefighters can’t easily find the nearest hydrant, that takes vital time away.”

He said the city has no connection to the recent gold paint job, and he does not know who is responsible. “I’m sure they had the best intentions, maybe they thought they would stand out more if they were repainted and brighter — but it is still vandalism,” he said. The penalty for vandalism varies based on circumstance, such as the amount of the defacement, whether it is a first offense, and other factors. Per California penal code 594, convicted vandals face fines or jail time or both.

On city fire hydrants, any discrepancy in shades of yellow are just due to fading, Collins said, adding the city does general maintenance on fire hydrants every five years, which includes making sure they work and repainting them.

Those who spot vandalized fire hydrants can report them via e-mail to: