About the Colony

Atascadero officials finally ready to enforce sign ordinance

Special to The TribuneJune 9, 2014 

Lon Allan

THE TRIBUNE

Finally the Atascadero City Council wants to do something to address those nonconforming business signs.

This announcement is music to my ears.

I’ve written about the lack of sign ordinance enforcement on the part of the city for the past 20 to 25 years.

Evidently city leaders agree that it is time to do something about those sign infractions.

At a council meeting a little over two weeks ago, a plan was revealed in which the city, with help from the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce, is going to attempt to do something about the city’s sign violations.

Linda Hendy, president/CEO of the chamber, explained that the approach will be to work with the merchants to inform them of what the sign ordinance says and then seek voluntary compliance as a first step. Both the chamber and city officials are concerned about coming on too strong.

Why is that? Talking to individual council members, and even chamber leaders, they say they don’t want the city to appear to be anti-business as it attempts to get code compliance from the business community.

How is enforcing the municipal code being hard on business? Is insistence on signing that helps to beautify a community “bad for business?” I think a community that cares about how the retail section looks is actually good for business.

The city has many regulations that could be interpreted as being “hard on business” that it doesn’t hesitate to enforce. So why the namby-pamby approach to sign enforcement?

One councilman agreed with my stand.

For the past few years I have focused my concerns about signs in the shopping center occupied by Vons, Rite Aid and some smaller shops. That entire 11-acre site was the home to founder E.G. Lewis and his wife.

Since the Lewis home was burned down in a training drill in 1965, the property has been filled with many very successful businesses over the past 30 years and more. But recently, newer, smaller businesses have simply stuck signs in the landscaping that faces El Camino Real, especially at the entrance to that commercial center, where the only palm tree from the Lewis estate remains standing. The entrance to that center is opposite the freeway offramp — visitors’ first look at our city.

I applaud the recent effort by the city and chamber to step up code enforcement. The plan revealed at the council meeting last month sets a goal of October to have gotten rid of nonconforming signs and assisted merchants with improved signage.

I urge the council to stand together in enforcement of its sign regulations.

This is the time for the community to get behind the effort by the City Council and chamber to clean up our image.

Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades, and his column is published weekly. Reach him at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.

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