Atascadero is a study in contrasts.
This past week the dominant conversation around town has been the spectacular re-opening of the Colony’s city hall and the city’s insistence that everything be done right.
Closed for almost 10 years, the four-story City Administration Building was damaged when the San Simeon Earthquake struck in December 2003. But to everyone’s amazement, the city hall is once again dazzling, from the ceiling in the lower rotunda to the details in the door trim and “community counter” built to look like something right out of the 1920s. The Atascadero Historical Society’s vast photo collection adorns the walls on all four floors.
Those who visited the city hall have also been ecstatic over the exterior grounds and the restoration work on the four fountains that anchor each corner of the building.
But a block away a new mural on an art store is worse that the one that kicked off the whole controversy in the first place. And another block away posters for senior pictures blow in the breeze, while two blocks from the city hall and the Sunken Gardens non-conforming signs are allowed to stand in the flower beds right next to the off ramp that leads into the downtown at Morro Road.
A defacto used-car lot is slowly taking shape right in the heart of the city’s showy civic center.
I find it hard to understand how the city can, on the one hand, work to enhance its appearance but then ignore those signs and banners that simply reinforce the garage sale appearance of Atascadero’s business community. Even the city’s new downtown signing efforts, intended to make the non-conforming A-frame signs disappear from the sidewalks, have failed to remove those very signs.
If we aren’t careful, more of those mechanical “person holding a sign board” will proliferate, just as those tall flag/banners have. The ones leading into the Vons and Rite Aid commercial center are ragged and faded. I notice more and more businesses are putting their names on vehicles and parking them in front of their stores. And more businesses are opting for a vinyl banner on their building instead of a more permanent, attractive sign.
It seems to me the millions the city is spending to make the town look better should be met with an equal thrust at enforcing its ordinances dealing with signs and banners throughout the town, not just in the downtown.