The city of Seattle is removing two murals — one in Phinney Ridge and the other in Green Lake — because neighbors can't keep up with the graffiti marring the artwork.

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Fed up with the layers of graffiti marring two colorful murals in North Seattle, the city is doing away with them.

Crews began scraping away the murals — located in underpasses at Phinney Avenue North and North 57th Street in Phinney Ridge, and Aurora Avenue North and North 63rd Street at Green Lake — on Monday and expect to finish the job by week’s end.

It will be the second time that one of the two murals has been erased.

In 2008, a city crew mistakenly painted over the mural in Phinney Ridge after receiving complaints about graffiti on it. The city later spent $5,000 to remove the paint and restore the mural.

But the graffiti has gotten worse over the past four years, said Greg Zuhl, 51, who lives nearby and made the original complaints about the graffiti.

He and other neighborhood volunteers spent weekends trying to manage the graffiti, but it still built up. Water also seeped down from Phinney Avenue and damaged the concrete wall, he said.

Zuhl, whose wife works at The Seattle Times, doesn’t blame the city for removing the mural. Still, he will miss the artwork, with its colorful depictions of the animals in nearby Woodland Park Zoo.

“It really tugs at my heartstrings to see that mural gone,” he said. “It’s such a neighborhood icon.”

Gigi Allianic, a spokeswoman for Woodland Park Zoo, said she often saw children pointing at the 57th Street mural’s brightly hued animals, despite the graffiti.

“It’s unfortunate that a few people can ruin something like that,” she said, “because I know the neighbors were very fond of it, as were we.”

The mural on 57th Street dates to 1994, when a couple of hundred people from the neighborhood painted it with the help of a $2,000 grant from the city. The mural on 63rd Street followed in 1997.

After receiving complaints about the graffiti buildup, the city began preparing to remove the murals last summer, said Lois Maag, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Neighborhoods.

Though neighborhood volunteers were unable to keep the murals graffiti-free, Diane Duthweiler, the president of the Phinney Ridge Community Council, said it was not clear that getting rid of the murals would solve the problem.

“Personally, I think a mural with some graffiti on it is better than a blank wall with some graffiti on it,” she said.

And Zuhl agreed about the message that freshly painted walls would send. “Basically they’re saying, ‘Come graffiti me,’ ” he said.

Hope may not be lost for North Seattle murals, though.

A number of people have expressed interest in painting a new mural, Maag said, and matching funds from the city would be available for any new projects.

“The good news,” she said, “is people have been coming out of the woodwork saying, ‘Hey, we really want to create something new.’ “

Theodoric Meyer: 206-464-2985 or tmeyer@seattletimes.com. Twitter: @theodoricmeyer.