U-Haul's illegally tall sign on West Capitol Avenue. The company says it needs a tall sign so truck renters can safely spot the entrance, and return a vehicle. (News-Ledger file photo)
From the News-Ledger Aug. 24, 2011
By Steve Marschke News-Ledger Editor
And then there was one: A U-Haul sign is the
last illegally tall business sign on West
Capitol Avenue, according to the city’s code
enforcement officer, and the company may be squaring off for a legal fight with
the city to keep it.
The West Sacramento City Council in the late
‘90s adopted a sign ordinance designed to reduce “visual blight” from the
strip’s jumble of pole signs. It allowed local businesses ten years to come
into compliance before the ordinance took effect in 2008. Most did, said Larry
Brooks, Code Enforcement Officer. That’s largely why the strip is home to many
12-foot-and-under monument signs, where it used to sport a bunch of pole signs
competing for height.
Gone are the skyscraping signs for King’s
Restaurant and the “whirlybird” sign on stilts for Safeway, as well as pole
signs for a number of motels and other businesses. Most of the signs were aging
relics of the 1950s and ‘60s.
“All the other businesses agreed to take down
their pole signs and put up monument signs to comply,” said Brooks. “U-Haul has
just always maintained it just could not come into compliance like all other
businesses. Their argument is that customers need to see that sign in order to
know where to turn when returning a rental vehicle. If they miss it, they would
have to do a u-turn, increasing the possibility of an accident.”
Brooks said his staff has tried to test that
“We got into a big truck and came down West Capitol Avenue
from both directions, and spotted the sign. . . It is our contention that the
(current) sign cannot be seen by most drivers anyway, because of the tree
canopy. In this day and age of smart phones and GPS, drivers already know which
way to turn.”
He argued that, partly because of trees in
the median, a shorter sign would actually have better visibility for U-Haul.
And Brooks added that allowing U-Haul to be an exception to the city ordinance
wouldn’t be fair to all the businesses that complied with the law. The city
held workshops with businesses just before the ordinance took effect,
explaining how to comply.
“My hat is off to all the businesses that
said ‘we are willing to comply as long as everyone else does,’” said Brooks.
“U-Haul basically came to that workshop saying ‘we’re going to lawyer up
Staff from the city and from U-Haul have
talked and negotiated, but to no avail. The city has filed notice of a code
enforcement violation, and the company has appealed. There will be a public
hearing for the appeal at 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 31 in the city council chambers.
U-Haul didn’t immediately return a request
Joanne Fried, director of marketing for the
corporation in Phoenix,
told the News-Ledger in 2009 that the company would try negotiating a solution.
“We’ve had amicable discussions with the city
on what to do, and are deciding what to do,” Fried said two years ago.
With the notice of code violation,
negotiations are apparently over.