Hundreds of honey bear signs pop up in San Francisco

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A rogue San Francisco street artist plastered hundreds of light and utility poles in the city’s downtown with iconic honey bear signs to highlight a campaign to loosen rules on street art.

The artist goes by the name “Fnnch” and he’s the man behind a picture of a larger honey bear on a home in Cole Valley, big red lips on an outdoor restaurant wall in North Beach and large orange poppies on the side of a home in Portero Hill.

The 31-year-old said he chose the honey bear image for a number of reasons.

“It’s a universal symbol of happiness. It plays on nostalgia and I find it to be a deeply surrealist object. We take it for granted because we all had them as children, but there’s really no reason honey should be in a bear,’’ he said with a laugh.

Overnight Sunday, the artist put 450 of the honey bear signs on poles between Market and Harrison and between Embarcadero and 5th streets. The polyester paper signs are affixed to the poles with zip ties, which is legal in San Francisco. They are allowed to stay up for 70 days.

However, if the bears were stickers or affixed with adhesive, he would have broken the law and could have faced a fine up to $500, according to information on the city’s public works page.

"What I want to do is show the absurdity of our laws,’’ he said.

To that end, he’s started a petition to decriminalize stickers and wheat paste, a removable adhesive commonly used by street artists. He has about 10,000 signatures so far and hopes to gather more before he presents the petition to the board of supervisors at an upcoming meeting.

"San Francisco needs to remember it has historically been a city of artists. Our residents want to express themselves. Visitors come here for their art. And yet the city criminalizes certain forms of street art that are mere infractions in California generally and in most of the world."

Fnnch said street art is special because it’s accessible to everyone, regardless of background or socioeconomic status.

"Seeing a honey bear on the street or in BART may be the only art someone sees in their day," he said. "I'm trying to bring art to people in a way that engages them. Art should be inviting, not alienating, and not criminalized."