Pichardo says he fixed a few minor violations, but the most glaring problem—the construction of two back closets without proper permits—is the building owner's responsibility. The closets were built by a previous tenant before Pichardo moved into the space, Muir says. Because the building was not up to code by the March visit, the city gave Pichardo and Muir until April 17 to fix the permit violations, or be fined daily. In March, Muir also requested that Pichardo halt the back-wall mural paintings, and repainted the buildings—with help from Verduzco and Sanchez, who say things have calmed down since the mural gatherings ended.

Pichardo says he's lost business because of the economy, but also because police now regularly patrol the area around the store. "Now they're harassing my customers," he says.

A stout, soft-spoken regular customer named Alex Morales says he was stopped last month after leaving the store. "[The officer] asked me what I was doing leaving the store so late," he says. He asked him if he had any "illegal or graffiti-related paraphernalia," searched him cursorily and let him go. "I asked him why he stopped me, and he said, just 'cause 'you were leaving GEEZ Clothing this late. We thought you purchased something a minor couldn't have.'" Morales told the officer he was 19 and left.

Muir says he has plans to knock down the closet walls in the coming days, but had not done so as of press time. Pichardo says he's tired of waiting and tired of what he sees as an overbearing police presence. He plans to close the store this month and is considering relocating in one year—possibly to a loft in the Santa Ana arts district.

"I'm pretty sure if we were downtown everyone would just come down and look at the [mural] wall," he says. "There, it would be considered art."


daltan@ocweekly.com

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