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Color-ful debate over signs
4-year sign odyssey may end this Tuesday
The three sign options are from left, municipal staff option A which is blue, red, and yellow; Option B which is blue, white and red; and the Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau alternative which consists of orange, gold and yellow fading into each other. - photo by Renderings courtesy of the City of Manteca

A tug-of-war has raged behind the scenes for over a year about what colors are the best for long-awaited wayfaring signs designed to help direct visitors to points of interest around Manteca.

There is no debate that the signs are needed. And there is no debate what destinations should be included on the signs. Nor is there disagreement that the signs should be posted on Tidewater-style posts with the bottom of the signs being seven feet off the ground.

What is driving the controversy is whether the signs should be predominately blue on top with white lettering with a small wavy red stripe separating it from a curvy - and wider - yellow stripe on the bottom, the same blue top with a small white stripe above a wider red stripe or something much different.

The third alternative employs a fading palette of orange, gold, and yellow and comes complete with the Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau logo along with its tourism slogan of “Hook, Wine & Sneakers.”

Municipal staff is advancing the first two options that are variations of the same design to the City Council for Tuesday’s 7 p.m. meeting along with an alternative that the CVB has been promoting. A decision Tuesday would cap nearly four years of debate over what to do with the signs that will be roughly three feet by three feet.

Initially, there were complaints that the red, white, and blue color scheme was chosen because it reflects the Manteca Chamber of Commerce colors. Chamber Executive Director Debby Moorhead happens to be a city council member.

But the city’s color options were shown to various community groups - primarily service clubs - with most input coming back in favor of red, white, and blue according to city staff.

Red white and blue also happen to be colors that appear on the city seal as well as municipal transit buses.

The chamber isn’t the only one with close friends on the council. Councilman Steve DeBrum is a current CVB board member. He also happens to be a past president of both the chamber and the CVB.

And as further proof that city staff wasn’t favoring the chamber because a council member happened to be the executive of the organization, last September when the sign proposal was first advanced to the council level staff failed to include the Chamber of Commerce as a point of interest even though that is a common place that visitors new to a community seek out. Several signs were proposed, however, for directions to the Manteca Visitors Center that houses the CVB.

Staff at the time said the omission was simply an honest oversight.

Sign designer CBS refuses to comply with city’s orders to remove billboards

And that’s not all that is on the table or makes the wayfaring sign issue a bit bizarre.

CBS Outdoor donated its design services for the signs the city came up with at no charge.

The nation’s largest outdoor billboard firm has steadfastly refused since 2001 to honor terms of a contract when the city served the wholly owned subsidiary of CBS notice on May 1, 2007 that it wanted the three two-sided billboards on city property that’s part of the Tidewater Bikeway along Moffat Boulevard removed.

In 1997, the city acquired the land from the railroad to create the Tidewater Bikeway. It has tried to terminate the lease on March 19, 2001 and May 1, 2007 as well but nothing happened.

The city receives $2,070 a year in lease payments for the land where the billboards sit. That is a significant bargain since many home builders will pay Manteca property owners for temporary permanent signs one-sixth the size of the billboards $100 a month to place them on their property.

To try and stay in Manteca’s good graces, CBS Outdoor offered its services to design the wayfaring signs.

RDA covering $40,000 tab for 44 wayfaring signs

The $40,000 tab for the 44 signs will be covered by $200,000 in the Manteca Redevelopment Agency budget for signage. The balance is intended to pay for “gateway” monument signs at key city entrances to replace the aging and old-style welcome signs that chamber maintains on East Highway 120 coming from Escalon and on Moffat Boulevard near the BMX track.

The signs are aimed to take advantage of a major shift in Manteca’s local economy in the past four years. More visitors and tourists have started making the community a destination thanks to the regional draw of Bass Pro Shops and Big League Dreams. Bass Pro Shops indicated they had 2.7 million visitors in 2009 while Big League Dreams had more than 400,000.

The goal is to get visitors, who often stay overnight in motels, easy directions to reach other places in town where they may be willing to spend money.

The destinations that signs will list include downtown, the civic center, library, golf course, Big League Dreams, courthouse, BMX, historical museum, Chamber of Commerce, lifestyle outlets, post office, skate park, hospital, ACE train station, Woodward Park, Highway 120, Manteca Visitors Center, and Delicato Vineyards wine tasting room. Specific names of private businesses such as Delicato won’t be used, though. Instead the signs will simply say “winery” accompanied by a directional arrow.