Elk Grove City Council Liberalizes Freeway Billboard Rules, More McDonald's On The Way

August 29, 2013 | The only surprise out of Wednesday night's Elk Grove City Council hearing was that the vote to liberalize the ...

August 29, 2013 |

The only surprise out of Wednesday night's Elk Grove City Council hearing was that the vote to liberalize the city's freeway billboard ordinance was not a "perfect" unanimous vote. Rather the vote passed by a mere 4-0 margin after Vice Mayor Steve Detrick recused himself from the proceedings.

For those not familiar with the entire story leading up to the loosening of the regulations, it can be quickly summed up as follows - a well heeled fast food-gas station developer who moved to the community in 1978 because of Elk Grove's good schools approached, lobbied, donated and successfully got the Elk Grove City Council to change the city's freeway billboard ordinance to allow his non-freeway adjacent proposed fast-food-gas-station-pizza-parlour-yogurt-shoppe-liquor-store-emporium freeway billboard access. To soften the approach, the city council over the course of several months directed the planning staff to loosen the ordinance in such a way that each of the city's major interchanges along Highway 99 and Interstate 5 would be able to develop signs, that one proponent said would be "public works of art," and do it all in the name of supporting local businesses. 

Abracadabra - I create what I speak!

Not only did the developer get his sign so he could land yet another coveted McDonald's for our fair city, but the city essentially opened the gates for more signs at intersections such as Highway 99 and Bond Road/Laguna Blvd., that coincidentally already has five billboards that will be grandfathered in. 

Regular observers of any government legislative body including our own city council understand that what is presented in public view is effectively a show. The real dealings are conducted in the city manager's office, at $500-a-plate building industry fundraisers and between those that have council votes and those that have money and most decisions are effectively signed, sealed and delivered before it shows up on an agenda. (Maybe Elk Grove's own version of the Hastert rule. When was the last time an item, any item, show up on the agenda that was defeated? Think about it. But we'll leave that to another time.)    

Alas, the real irony of the whole undertaking may have been unwittingly spoken by Mayor Gary Davis toward the end of the hearing. Davis, who earlier in the evening waxed poetically about the recovering economy and birth of new retailers in town, sounded a note of caution about locally owned small businesses. 

Now that the signs will be allowed, what off-freeway businesses in the newly defined zones, say along Elk Grove Blvd. near Highway 99 are the most likely candidates to afford one of the sign placements? In my estimation, good money at this location would probably bet on McDonald's, Starbucks, Carl's Jr., KFC, Burger King, Taco Bell, Denny's, Wal Mart and maybe La Bou or Jim Boy's while the bad money would be on the Stagecoach Restaurant, Thai Chili, Mountain Mike's Pizza, Golden Dragon, the donut shop, Cheese Steak Shop, Tiger's Yogurt Shop or any of the other small businesses in that zone. Do these independent small businesses realistically have the clout or capital to pay for a place on a sign?

(Maybe we could nickname this ordinance the Elk Grove multi-national fast-food assurance incentive. But I digress.)

"It still doesn't help small businesses," Davis noted. "I really want to encourage the folks that with these signs, these opportunities, to try and make some space available and be a little less focused on maximizing the marketing dollar, try to help some of our small, local businesses be successful because they are struggling."    

Good luck with that.

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Anonymous said...

great! more sodium, sugar, fat!

Anonymous said...

"public works of art" passed in rapid-fire succession with just an off-the-cuff comment about emails from the citizens who opposed them. I find it very interesting that citizens have stopped attending city council meetings. Thought we had cleaned house once a few years ago when this same thing happened. Seems when they get on the dias all common sense goes away and the $$ signs prevail. Even Mr. Detrick commented, under his breath, but the mic picked it up..."that was quick." Well when you cater to the builders & chains it is pretty quick. Be damned the Mom & Pop businesses that can't afford their names on a freeway sign. You gotta raise those political contributions Mom & Pop, it's all about $$ now! Heard Baja Burrito can't even put a small sign out front, but let the Civic Center place signs all up and down the street and you're already there when you read the signs. Crazy thinkin.....

Disgusted with our present city leaders...TIME FOR CHANGE!

Suburb said...

Reports of my death are premature, at least in Elk Grove. Look at all the new signs, banners, flags, and balloons advertising the plain jane vanilla strip centers; rows upon rows of rooftops with two-story boxes standing on postage stamp lots; herds of commuter cars racing from one stop light to the next; E-Tran buses creeping from one empty bus stop to another, their dark tinted windows covering up the fact that those empty seats are bought and paid for by you and me; and just look at all that virgin land to the south--there's cash in that dirt! Put the general plan on rewind and let's play it again!

Don't want fries with that! said...

Isnit it ironic that Detrick couldn't vote after Gil Moore gave him and his family over $25K. Maybe another ski trip is in order or that fancy bottle of red wine Detrick spoke of from the dais that came from Moore, so they can celebrate the denegration of our city!

Sarah Johnson said...

Hoping Gil Moore gets caught up in the current effort to pay McDonald's employees a living wage! Wouldn't that be ironic?

Anonymous said...

Gil Moore will now probably receive a Mayor's Award; for as he stated last night, he is such a philantropist and his foundation has given and given.

Michael said...

I'm so proud to be a resident of Elk Grove.
The additional McDonald's fast food location will hire those unable to afford a college degree to work for and receive a living, middle class wage at $15/hour.
Oh...the profit margins are too small to allow for a doubling of the minimum wage?
All hail the Japanese robotic machines that will be making our Big Macs in the brave new world of, as one blog participant put it, fat-sugar-salt!

Jill said...

Actually Sarah I suspect local franchisor Steve Ramirez will own and operate the McDonald's. Moore simply wanted to get the sign so he could land the McDonald's for, pun intended, a nice fat long term lease at his place.

Sarah Johnson said...

Of course you are right, but it would really be cool if those employees are paid a living wage, no matter who it is that ends up paying them. Moore argued that his projects would bring jobs and some of us responded by pointing out that those are not the sort of jobs we needed to complete the vision for Elk Grove of being able to live AND work here. So, it would be great if the current nationwide effort resulted in those employees being paid better.

Just 25 cents said...

It was on the news tonight if McDonald's employees were to receive $15.00 an hour, McDonald's would have to charge $1.25 for their current $1.00 hamburger.

So taking the sales tax revenue argument we all heard last night, I would pay that extra 25 cents if that meant a McDonald's employee could live, work and support their family and not have to work two jobs so they could be there to raise their kids. Wouldn't these employees also be putting more sales tax revenue into their local economies as well by being able to buy needed necessities?

So Gil Moore, if you are so concerned about our community, being the altruistic philanthropist you are, why don’t you offer to pay your new employees $15.00 an hour?

Anonymous said...

Well it's "said and done," now we'll see how the city follows the guidelines set forth in the document. Based on everything I have seen them do to date we are most likely in for a surprise. Kinda like that Welcome to Elk Grove sign on 99....now isn't that a doozie? Actually, now that I think about it, I can't think of anything here in EG that would get me to exit the freeway. Of course I'm not a fast-food or Walmart lover so maybe that is what I'm missing. Do love Bravos, Baguettes, Golden Dragon & Happy Garden...but thinkin that may be a little expensive for those Mom & Pops.

Anonymous said...

Saddened again by the actions of this council. Did anyone else notice that NOT ONE citizen came to the podium? Why is that? Do you suppose all the active citizens are "on board" with these changes? I think not. My sense is that the citizens have given up; taken their toys and gone home. This council continues to dampen the enthusiasm of the citizens...rarely does the council even acknowledge the citizen's input or concerns. It is more like...."you're three minutes are up, next". Also, if Davis half hearted attempt to bring the little businesses some equity on this sign boondoggle, why wasn't a stipulation addeded that says that each monument sign devote 10-15% of the space to non-chain stores/businesses? NOPE...this council really does not care about the little guys; only the big ones with big wallets. Come on down WalMart...get your sign. It's not like WalMart or McDonalds needs to advertise. I feel sorry for the independent stores in our area. No one is looking out for them. Remember how the Burritto place couldn't put an A-fram sign on the sidewalk directing foot traffic to his small restaurant? You need no other reason to point to to showcase where the council stands on small mom-pop stores.

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