Police and business owners think they may have caught a prolific San Francisco graffiti vandal who tags “Goer” on storefronts and walls across Downtown neighborhoods.
Brian Wabl, 41, of San Francisco, was arrested Sunday morning on suspicion of vandalism after a witness directed officers to stop him on Howard Street between Seventh and Eighth streets in SoMa. Wabl was still in jail as of Monday afternoon, according to official records.
Adam Mesnick, owner of the SoMa restaurant Deli Board, posted a video to X/Twitter Sunday documenting the arrest.
"I walked out of my house, and I saw a guy rolling down the street on a scooter. A couple of cars turned on my block at Langton and Howard. A neighbor had called in an incident and was flagging down police, screaming, 'There he is!'” Mesnick told The Standard. “Police followed him down the block. They arrested him, and you can see my [video] from where he was sitting on the sidewalk on Folsom."
It's unclear what "Goer" means, if anything, but in British slang, the derogatory term is used to describe a woman who is sexually active with many different partners.
An Instagram account linked to someone Brian Wabl includes references to a dog called Goer.
Mesnick, who sits on the SoMa West Community Benefit District board, slammed graffiti as its second-most troubling scourge after trash.
“The assumption is that it's multiple people doing the tag, but hopefully, they got the guy who's the kingpin,” Mesnick said. “It is the most frequent sign, prominent, prolific. For years, we've been cleaning up after this guy, years upon years.”
SoMa West CBD Executive Director Christian Martin recalled seeing “dozens easily, if not hundreds” of "Goer" tags across the district over several years.
The community benefit district has a full-time staffer who tackles graffiti, as well as other team members who clean tags as found, Martin told The Standard. In the 12 months from July 2022, the district removed 9,759 tags, or 26 per day on average. The district doesn't collect data on the types of tags it removes and was unable to provide a count on "Goer" tags it has cleaned up.
The tagger left a different mark in late September, branding “Goer” into Bay of Burma’s storefront window signage on Folsom Street—a block from where Wabl was arrested Sunday.
Co-owner and Manager Ryan Zin told The Standard Bay of Burma was held up in an armed robbery on Sept. 13 for cash. Less than two weeks later, the brand appeared in the window’s sticker signage. It still reflects a “Goer” shadow on a table inside the restaurant on sunny days. The San Francisco Police Department has been contacted for confirmation of the armed robbery but did not immediately respond.
“We’re planning to put up new stickers in a couple of days,” Zin said. “It’s annoying.”
Nearby on Folsom Street, The Bike Connection Sales Associate James Bergquist said Monday he’s used to seeing all kinds of graffiti posted along two walls and a railing outside the store on the corner of Seventh Street. Bergquist said he often sees the graffiti being painted over. Bergquist has seen the branding, too.
“It was done fairly artistically, even for being, you know, graffiti,” Bergquist said.
The Standard walked around Seventh and Folsom streets on Monday and saw seven "Goer" tags in various forms, including fluorescent green spray paint on a street corner, yellow marker pen on a gray wall outside Sluts wine bar, what appears to be faded yellow glue on a Folsom Street sidewalk and white spray paint under a street art mural depiction of an eagle on Langton Street.
Wabl was booked into San Francisco County Jail at 1:21 p.m. Sunday and held on $90,000 of bail. Police said the investigation remains open. The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office did not initially respond to a question about whether Wabl had been charged; the Public Defender’s Office said it had little information to share Monday but added that Wabl had not yet been arraigned or appointed an attorney.
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesman Stephen Chun told The Standard that the agency had been awarded a $3 million grant from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Clean California initiative to clean up bus stops and train stations in the Downtown, SoMa and parts of Chinatown neighborhoods ahead of APEC in November.
George Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org