Is The Elk Grove City Council Developing an Unhealthy Sign Fetish?

In the course of a year's time, the City of Elk Grove, or at least the city council who guide the fine citizen's of our fair city...

In the course of a year's time, the City of Elk Grove, or at least the city council who guide the fine citizen's of our fair city, have seemingly developed what can be best described as a sign fetish.

As a matter of clarification, in this case a fetish can be described as an object of unreasonably excessive attention or reverence.

This pattern surfaced last March when a local fast food and gas station developer first appeared before the Elk Grove City Council pleading for "relief" from hard-fought-for regulations dating to 2006, which, in part limited billboards along the two freeways that run through the city, so that he could land a McDonald's restaurant at his development.

In response, city staff was directed to, among other things, conduct a workshop on the taxpayers tab for the benefit of the gas station and fast food developer to see what sort of changes were appropriate.

If that were not enough, the city's economic development department hatched a plan last year to place numerous wayfinding signs throughout the city to direct visitors to local attractions. While that plan is still being developed as part of the city's oft-stated scheme of becoming a destination city, the city did install wayfinding signs, again on the taxpayers back, in the humungous Elk Grove Automall.

At last weeks city council meeting this inexplicable fetish was on display for all to see when the council deliberated for close to an hour talking about sign wavers, mechanical sign wavers and of course, more monument signs.

Interestingly the city council's handling of this sign fetish seems to displease numerous stakeholders.

The Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce and several small business owners are unhappy the city is not listening to their concerns; certain owners of premium properties can't be happy the value of their investment might be diminished by the push for more monument signs and of course all of those people who worked in 2006 for our current sign regulations must be scratchy their heads and asking, 'why is the city council taking on this fetish like interest in signs.'

Unfortunately, as the city council has directed the city staff to come back with recommendations to permit more monument signs and of course there is the citywide wayfinding sign project still dangling out there, it looks like we are going to be discussing signs for the foreseeable future. If we are discussing this for the foreseeable future it can only mean there will be a lot more signs in Elk Grove's future. 

 The only thing we can do is question, why all the attention to signs?  

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Connie Conley said...

What I would like to know is how much staff time and taxpayer money has been spent. One developer makes a request, wants a monument sign even before his rezone is approved; and boom we have a workshop. I believe the cost for the workshop was $5,000.

Now we the back and forth on the sign ordinance from the planning commission to city council and back again, several times over; again mostly over the monument signage; not the signage requested by the small business owners.

Staff does their work by allocation, so they have to track the time spent.

And in my opinion of this taxpayer, it is not time, nor money, well spent.

Tail Wagging the Dog said...

I'm not anti-business, but at some point these businesses are gonna start running out of excuses and blaming government regulations for their less than desirable profit margins. Capitalism has winners and losers. They blame lack of signage and banners, so they ask the City to allow more. They blame poor signage visibility, so they ask the City for taller signs. They blame lack of parking in Old Town, so the City leases a parking lot and buys another lot for a million bucks. They say they need a draw to bring people to Old Town. so the City subsidizes a skating rink during the holidays. The auto dealers say say they need marketing money and more visibility, so the City buys them signs in the auto mall and gives new dealers some advertising money to run ads. Leatherby's says they need some advertising money when they move here, so the City gives them advertising money and allows them to paint a huge three-dimensional chess board on their building.

Capt. Benjamin L. Willard said...

I tend to agree with the comments of "Dog" from above. Open at small business at your own peril.

Having said that, while the city on one hand will make lower fees for developers, the very group who really shouldn't be getting help, they aren't willing to throw even a table scrap to the small guys. What would it have hurt to some small business owners present some ideas to the council?

As Ms. Conley pointed out, the city was willing to hold a workshop for one individual. Could money been the reason?

I for one don't want our street clogged with all sort of signs. Nonetheless, it must be very frustrating for a small business owner who doesn't have access to thousands of dollars to lavish on our city council members to look at the proceedings and not get peeved.

Maybe if the gentleman who owns Baja Burrito took a council member on a ski trip or gave a hefty campaign contribution to a few council members he might have his concerns addressed too.

Anonymous said...

I'm in agreement with all above but a slight correction on one of "dogs" comments. Leatherby's DID NOT ASK FOR THE ADVERTISING MONEY!! In fact, Mr. Alan Leatherby stated he did not ask for nor seek it out...he is quoted in the Citizen as saying the CITY offered him the money, so he took it. He indicated he was moving to Elk Grove with or without the money because he believed Elk Grove residents would support their expansion/business.

This is a good question: why are the drama over the sign ordinance?? Why all of a sudden we need momument signs for every driveway??? WHY, WHY, WHY? Since Pat Hume reads this blog, Pat, can you shine some light on this? It does appear that if one developer asks, the city apparently responds with all gun barrels lazer focused. Seems we should be doing more with our money/resources/energy.

Anonymous said...

I just watched the video. Outstanding! Based on what I saw, not to mention the endless hours at several council meetings, EGN in two minutes, seems to have the diagnosis correct: Several council members do have a fetish for monument signs. And in the case of Detrick, it is an obsession.

What brought on such a fixation for moment signs? Was it that ski trip? Was it that expensive bottle of wine? Or was it the lure of Gil Moore’s money that pads Detrick’s campaign account?

And it appears that the fetish is contagious. Hume and Cooper seem to have been infected by sitting too close to Detrick up on the dais. Or is that they have been promised a cure, as with Detrick, that only Moore’s money can provide?

Connie said...

I have an observation that those of us who have been involved for years may understand.

It pertains to Gil Moore’s project and everything that has ensued so far. Aside from the fact Moore’s project hasn’t even been granted a rezone or gone through the EIR process which is an entirely different comment.

But given Moore’s comments at council meetings, and out in the hallway to active citizens, not to mention his vulgar slang “cojones” comment at the workshop regarding the other two land owners – which at the time we didn’t know was Tsakopoulos Investments and Winn Properties -- and all the controversy over momument signs, does this not remind anyone of what occurred with Paul Petrovich and the Rite Aid project?

And in the case of the citizens who stood strong for what they believed in with the Rite Aid project – even after how some were treated -- wait for it, they were right in standing their ground, were they not?

Lynn said...

Yes I do remember Mr. Paul Petrovich and the Rite Aid project. It was eye opening for me; the true civic lesson when I was hit in the face with the reality of how local politics works and believe me I would not ever have believed this if I had not heard it for myself as Petrovich left the meeting;he said to the gentleman with him; "He flipped on me". So Petrovich believed he had the votes...and what I concluded that night and continues to be reinforced as I attend meetings; most every decision is decided upon before public comment is even heard. We are a democracy driven by capitalism and greed...who really is benefiting here in Elk Grove? I don't know who flipped or what the cost was to that particular council member...

Connie said...

Hi Lynn,

I will tell you who it was because I was there and heard it all. Petrovich was referring to Pat Hume. What he said was, "Pat Hume flipped on me!" Pat and I were on one our breaks, and so I went and told Sarah Johnson what Petrovich said. I told her, "Pat needs to know what was said out in hallway about him."

Sarah went over and called to Pat as he was walking back up to dais after the break, told him, and he was furious.

Pat Hume's reaction can be viewed on the tape of the meeting that night.

The cost was and I hope that history repeats itself, is that when a developer brags he has a council member in his pocket, that council member proves him or her very wrong!

But with the Moore issue, I think we have a council member who is so deep in his pocket -- $25K; and I better stop there because the joke I was going for is not appropriate for any audience.

Sarah Johnson said...

Your account is accurate but may leave some who are not familiar with the story with the impression that Petrovich lost. He did not. The Rite Aid was approved over all of our objections, Petrovich was laughing all the way to the bank, Old Town lost a prime corner parcel. The Rite Aid store does very little business and, I believe, will eventually close. So the moral of this story is lose-lose for everyone except Paul Petrovich.

Connie said...

Sarah and Lynn,

If I meant to imply that Petrovich was the victor here, that wasn’t my point. My point was that after everything was said and done, the citizens were correct which I wrote above, “And in the case of the citizens who stood strong for what they believed in with the Rite Aid project – even after how some were treated -- wait for it, they were right in standing their ground, were they not?”

First Bell South, then Rite Aid and now Moore’s project. And still the council doesn’t seem to be listening!

Capt. Benjamin L. Willard said...

I think the bigger point being presented here is this - on many items, particularly ones involving real estate projects, the decision has already been made before it is discussed on the dais. They are merely going through the formality up there.

Not having watched the Rite Aid matter, I can only speculate that Mr. Hume "flipped" after having counted the votes. Knowing what the outcome of a particular vote will be ahead of time allows legislators on all levels to cast, or in this case, flip, their vote for purely electoral purposes.

Good Humor Bar said...

Maybe Rite-Aid gave him a deal on ice cream cones!

Lynn said...

Capt. Willard,

You are absolutely right in your assessment. I have seen it time and time again...and believe sometimes two of them may even talk to figure it out so that it is in favor of a developer. Maybe that is why so few residents attend the council meetings and speak anymore they figure that is the way it is and why bother...and of course the natural human nature is; if it doesn't directly impact me for what reason would I want to participate in local issues....I understand when one has a family, attempting to make ends is tough...however I have encouraged residents to at least attend one council meeting...and now I am encouraging residents to attend the LAFCo meeting at Wackford Center Tuesday night! 6pm! Our city leaders believe our city needs to grow outside current boundaries...shouldn't our leaders be laser focused on making what we already have better. Do we NEED more SPRAWL and urban blight!

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