Sign Ordinance Meeting at Dona Esters 9:30am Thursday, July 11
The San Juan Bautista Planning Commission met with members of the San Juan Bautista Business community during a meeting of the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce San Juan Committee at Dona Ester’s restaurant to discuss the proposed sign ordinance changes for San Juan Bautista.
The Planning Committee met as a “committee of the whole” to be inclusive of anyone who wishes to attend and to be heard.
Planning Commissioners Georgana Gularte, Dave Medeiros and Chair Ernest Franco were present, Commissioner Guibert was excused and Commissioner Pat Garratt was not present.
Phil Esparza of El Teatro Campesino announced a new play by Luis Valdez, a Kabuki Corrido, his first play in 13 years, which may be significant for the town which will run for 5 weeks. This is the beginning of the Teatro’s 50 year anniversary celebration for 2015.
It was expressed by the Chair that the meetings have been at 9:00 in the morning to facilitate the participation of the business community.
This was to be the last meeting before the public hearing preceding possible adoption by the CIty Council.
Kim Bautista, chair of the San Juan Committee introduced herself and noted that the previous rates have been reduced for the sign permits which may not have been clear. She also noted that signs with existing permits will continue to be permitted. She noted that the sign ordinance has been in existence for a long time but it has not bee enforced. She note that this was a meeting to try to include constructive input to make sure that was understood.
Claudia Fischer had submitted a letter to the commission. She asked why there needs to be changes to the existing ordinance. She stated that the Commission should be trying to make it inviting to businesses and not to hide behind blank businesses.
Chair Ernest Franco read Ms. Fisher’s letter to the group. Her letter noted that the city should encourage business. She noted that her current sign is helpful in aiding her customers in finding her. She noted that the businesses should all be addressed equally.
He noted that the Bakery had neon signs which had been approved for some reason.
Commissioner Medeiros addressed the question of why businesses which have changed ownership.
City Manager noted that the sign stays with the owner of the building.
Chair Ernest Franco reported that a non-conforming sign is a sign that was legal but is not longer. He suggested that the city can take it down condemn it, or amortize the cost.
There was discussion about the importance of control of the image of San Juan’s historic appearance. He noted Monterey’s allowance of a plastic Dairy Queen sign next to a restored historic building.
Commissioner Gularte noted that Union Bank worked with the Planning Commission was asked to tone down their colors to conform with the historic district color values.
Jane Merrill asked for the definition of the Historic District. The City Manager noted that the ordinance addresses the whole of San Juan Bautista and not simply the Historic District.
The City Manager noted that it would be unfair to ask someone inside of the Historic District to conform to something that people outside of the District would have to do.
Emily Renzel asked about the section of the ordinance stating that you must have a comprehensive sing plan. She has a vacant space that has no sign for the tenant. The City Manager suggested that since each building has an allowable square footage of signage to be divided between the businesses. She noted that San Juan has mostly foot traffic, since people park and travel on foot. She noted that signage for cars is not as important as signage for pedestrians. SHe noted that the sandwich boards have been mostly ad hoc, that look a little tacky. She thought those needed to be approved.
Larry Gerbrandt, proprietor of Rare Light Gallery, stated that he had met with the committee and made his views clear. He has addressed the Planning Commission and the City Council and he feels that he has made his views clear. His issue was with lighted signs within stores. He thought that once inside of his store it is his right to do what he wishes.
He noted that the Bank’s ATM light is very bright at night and is not in the Historic Character. he thought that it serves a useful function and he would fight for their right to do that. He wants to fight for the equivalent that he has inside of his store. he attributes an increase in traffic in his business to this sign. He is often open until 8 or 9 at night. He says he gets visitors after dinner.
He suggested that he needs signage that lets people know that he is open.
The City Manager noted that there was a provision that does not allow flashing signs that show outside.
Mr. Gerbrandt noted that the singling out of LED lights is going to put the city in a difficult situation by discriminating against a particular form of light.
He insisted that if he has to take his sign down then the bank must take down the ATM sign.
Phil Esparza noted that a 30 day period to have a banner approved is too short a period of time for their group. He is concerned that it will affect their ability to grow. He was concerned about how to address the location of the theater. He suggested using the corner at Mokelume to put up directional signs. He asked for some consideration for the Teatro for flexibility.
It was suggested by the City Manager that during events perhaps the period could be longer.
Chairman Franco spoke of the need to keep everyone on the same level.
Commissioner Medeiros spoke to the purpose of the business community working together, not to allow one business to compete better with the others.
Chris Martorana spoke about the need to address the “A” frame signs. He suggested that the city look at what is working well. He noted that the Barstown, Kentucky has conforming signs that are attractive which demonstrate connection and community. He noted that the signs are unattractive.
Angela Firpo spoke about the difficulty in figuring out when businesses are open. She notes that it is more attractive to have consistent informational signs.
It was noted that there have been better attendance at this meeting than previous and that it was hoped that this might continue. It was decided to continue the discussion at additional meetings.