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Merchants: Sign rule changes will hurt their business
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Marie Archibeque relies heavily on The Statue of Liberty to bring in her business.

And if proposed changes to Manteca’s sign ordinance – pitched by an ad-hoc committee of two business owners, a former councilmember, and a Republican party activist – go into effect, she’ll have to rethink how she gets out the word to prospective customers.

With a human sign donning a green uniform topped with the iconic spiked helmet at the intersection of Louise Avenue and Main Street, Archibeque – who owns Liberty Tax Service – says the unusual advertisement serves more than just one purpose.

Since the business is tucked away in a commercial center off of Main Street that would be difficult to draw in regular traffic. The sign waver, she says, accounts for nearly all of the walk-in traffic during the tax season.

Who better to get the word out than Lady Liberty?

“Nearly 90 percent of our business comes from sign wavers, and taking that away would be a huge blow,” Archibeque said. “In a bad economy I don’t know why they’d be trying to hurt business. In every city that we go into we check to see if they allow sign wavers, and if that were to go away or change we’d have to re-examine our lease.

“In this down economy it just wouldn’t make sense for us to be there.”

The proposed changes will be the focus of a workshop at the Manteca Planning Commission tonight at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 1001 W. Center Street.

The current proposal wouldn’t completely outlaw human signs, but would restrict where they would be able to operate – limiting them to only the sidewalk in front of the business they’re representing.

It also targets the tall, waving banner signs that dominate corridors like Main Street in an attempt not only to improve aesthetics but also safety – improving the line of sight for drivers making turns onto the roadway.

But Shannon Moran – the owner of Manteca’s Mr. Pickle – is only concerned about how the changes will affect her unique and effective human pickle sign carrier.

While her latest advertiser at the corner of Yosemite Avenue and Hulsey Way has been just a regular sign carrier during the lunch rush while the pickle suit gets repaired, Moran has been thrilled with the response she has gotten.

“When he’s out there we see the flow of business increase so much,” Moran said. “There’s no doubt that we’re more profitable when he’s out there on the corner because it lets people know that we’re here – people that might not see us when they’re driving by.

“And the kids just love him. People will stop in just to take a picture with him. It really plays a part in our whole family-friendly atmosphere.”

The proposed changes for human signs being reviewed during the workshop include that they:

•must be located on the property of the business that they are advertising or on the sidewalk adjacent to the property.

•must not interfere with pedestrians, cyclists, or vehicular traffic or impact visibility.

•are not larger than 12 square feet whether they are worn, carried or held.

•cannot shout or generate any noise that would disrupt traffic or endanger pedestrians. Bull horns and amplified sound are prohibited.

•are restricted to one per location.

•are prohibited from having any type of animation flashing, blinking, rotating lights, or mirrors.

•must obtain a permit from city hall and pay the appropriate fee.

Proposed rules mean A-frame and flag signs would have to be placed in such a manner as to allow four feet of sidewalk to remain open plus be set a foot back from the curb. Oftentimes signs - such as one often placed by Del Taco at Yosemite and Spreckels - is placed in the middle of the sidewalk leaving less than four feet on either side.

The signs can only be placed in front of the business they are advertising. Each business can only have one sign A-frame or two flag signs per 50 linear feet of business frontage. They cannot be placed on landscaped islands or medians within the public right-of-way.

A-frame signs can’t be over four feet in height and flag banners can’t exceed 15 feet.

A-frames can’t be wider than three feet while flags are limited to two feet in width.

The proposed rule changes were hammered out by an ad hoc citizens committee consisting of business owner Ed Fonseca, Manteca Republican Women Federated President Lin Silverman, business owner Crystal Downs, and former council member Jack Snyder.