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A-frames, other signs may require permit, insurance

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POSTED November 4, 2012 11:46 p.m.

The proliferation of illegal A-frame and flag banner signs as well as illegal human signs on Manteca sidewalks could become legal by the start of 2013.

But to avoid sign seizures and potential fines, businesses may have to secure permits and provide the city with proof of liability insurance.

That’s the bottom line of a proposed sign ordinance amendment being mulled by the Manteca City Council when they meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

Should the council approve the changes, a second reading would be required at their next meeting on Dec. 4 as the second meeting in November is being cancelled due to non-paid furloughs to help keep the city’s general fund balanced. If it is approved a second time, the ordinance changes would take effect 30 days later in the first week of January.

Critics contend establishing guidelines for placement of A-frames and where human signs can be in public right of way is essentially a waste of time since they doubt the city will do any enforcement beyond what takes place now when a complaint is lodged. The city’s approach to property maintenance rules and the sign ordnance has been to do nothing unless a complaint is received. Then to make sure that a party isn’t using the city in a dispute with another party, code enforcement officers  check surrounding property to see if there are similar violations and cite accordingly.

Neither A-frames or flag banner signs are now legal in Manteca although they dominate the landscape. Human sign wavers also are not currently allowed.

One section of the proposed sign ordinance changes limits a business to one A-frame sign per location. Also the city is proposing allowing one flag banner per 50 linear feet of business frontage. The Flags Over Manteca flag effort is exempt from the proposed regulation. As such, it also exempts the Manteca Chamber of Commerce from providing the city with liability insurance or even to obtain a permit from the city for the flag effort.

The 50-foot rule would substantially weed down the number of banner signs many businesses have. A mid-block gas station just east of Powers Avenue on Yosemite Avenue, for example, has three banner flags hawking everything from beer to ice with a frontage of just over 50 linear feet. The same is true for a cigarette store closer to Cottage Avenue on East Yosemite Avenue.

The ordinance allows banner flags  which are defined as portable signs - in the holes drilled for the Flags Over Manteca effort. But one change in the ordinance states all portable signs shall be set back one foot from the curb. That clearly eliminates the vast majority of the flag pole holes that are less than a foot from the curb’s edge.

At the same time, flags - including apparently where the banner flags flutter to - must allow four feet of clear passage  on city sidewalks. That is not the case when wind catches banner flags now placed along sections of North Main Street and East Yosemite Avenue. The four-foot clearance is mandated by state and federal rules governing handicap access.

Portable signs also cannot be placed to obstruct access to the sidewalk from parked cars. That means signs in the downtown corridor would been to be placed far enough from the curve to allow doors to open. Nor can portable signs be placed in city medians, city landscaping, or any public right-of-way such as a street.

Originally proposed sign ordinance changes would make it  illegal for human signs to be within 100 feet of controlled intersections. The staff report provided with the council agenda this week keeps that provision in although the council previously talked about striking it.

The proposed requirement that sign wavers stay 100 feet away from controlled intersections was added to maintain consistency with the city’s municipal code regulation aggressive solicitation. A staff report indicates consistency between the two sections of the municipal code establishes equal treatment under the law because a sign soliciting “work for food” is considered no different than one soliciting customers to purchase a product.

Manteca officials made it clear several years ago that the solicitation provision applied to off duty firefighters who were passing the boot for charity at onetime at the South Main and Mission Ridge Drive

The proposed rules limit a business to one human sign at any given time. They would not have to stay in front of the business, though.

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