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Issuing permits for human signs may open city to liability suits
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Mr. Pickle occasionally attracts new customers to the namesake sandwich shop in Spreckels Park.

In this case, Mr. Pickle is of three employees asked to be energetic and dance along Yosemite Avenue and Commerce Avenue in order to drum up business, according to Mr. Pickles owner Shannon Moran.

“We rotate (those wearing the costume) during the week,” she said at Tuesday’s City of Manteca Planning Commission meeting.

Moran was brought to the meeting for a workshop to discuss temporary sign rules being proposed. The rules for human signs that require a city permit is raising concerns from the municipal attorney that the city could be held liable for their safety and actions.

By definition of the standards under the proposed temporary and portable signage ordinance, Mr. Pickle, as in the person in costume, would be considered a human sign.

According to the draft, this would include “a sign held by or attached to a human for the purpose of advertising or otherwise drawing attention to an individual, commodity, service or product.”

It’s also one person dressed or letting loose and holding up a sign per business.

A four-member Ad Hoc Committee spent the better part of the past four months conducting meetings and researching the existing sign ordinances.

“It started with a couple of businesses writing to the City Council on (sign) issues,” said Ad Hoc Committee member Ed Fonseca. “We tweaked and updated the ordinance that was last addressed in the early 1990s.”

At the time, he noted, human signs along with flag- or banner- type signs simply didn’t exist.

“We looked at the A-frame (signs), human signs or flags / banners,” said Fonseca.

He added: “We wanted to give the code enforcement officer something to work with.”

However, the draft ordinance will need another look-over by the Planning Commission before going to the Manteca City Council.

Commissioners voted on another workshop for April with the proposed ordinance to include liability issues, as suggested by City Attorney John Britton.

His concern under the Joint Power Agreement is the human-sign operators working along the city sidewalks. “If you give them a permit the city would be liable under the JPA,” he said.

Cost for a permit under the plan is $10.

An A-frame sign, meanwhile, can only have two faces at a height of 4 feet and a width of 3 feet. This sign is prohibited to have working lights and can only be placed adjacent to the business with enough room along the sidewalks for those visually impaired or in wheelchairs to operate.

The same goes for the banners. The ordinance would allow for the banners to be placed in the sidewalk slots used for Flags over Manteca during non-holidays.

Signs – human, A-frame, or banner – would be prohibited from disrupting traffic, endangering pedestrians, or creating disturbances of any kind.

The purpose for the workshop was to discuss the Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendations.

Fonseca said that businesses would be allowed to operate with A-frame signs but not a banner or human sign.

 “You can have one but not two (different signs),” he added.

In the case of Mr. Pickles, Moran is able to have an employee dressed in costume along with the sandwich shop’s A-frame sign located on private property. “We have the (written) permission from the leaser,” she said.

Some of the Commissioners would prefer for the human-sign operators placed at a designated distance from the place of business.

“That was a difficult issue for the Ad Hoc Committee,” Fonseca said. “We’re trying to be fair to everyone by not regulating the numbers.

“If you’re pickle and you have to be 200 feet from your business – that’s way too complicated.”