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Sidewalk A-frame signs legal soon?
City decides sign wavers are different than panhandlers
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Sign waver Chris Kroshus - and others like him - could soon legally work in Manteca as human signs based on action taken Tuesday by the City Council. - photo by GLENN KAHL

A good share of the hundreds of A-frames and banner flags illegally placed along Manteca city sidewalks could be legal by year’s end.

At the same time sign wavers may become legal as well. And - unlike originally proposed - they won’t have to stay 100 feet or more away from controlled intersections that have traffic lights or stop signs. Instead, they have to stay outside of a visibility triangle imposed to make sure drivers’ sightlines are not impeded. That means they could venture as close as 20 feet but no closer and not violate the law.

Previously, the proposed sign ordinance language treated panhandlers and sign wavers alike banning them from within 100 feet of controlled intersections with the city arguing they had to do so because of equal treatment under the law. The city’s attorney’s office, though, has since determined panhandling and advertising are not similar acts.

The Manteca City Council voted 4-0 to move forward with changes allowing temporary signs - banner flags, A-frames and sign wavers - on municipal sidewalks providing they secure a permit, businesses provide proof of insurance and they meet various size and setback requirements. The second reading - which is requiring before any ordnance can take effect - won’t happen until November. That’s because Mayor Willie Weatherford asked that final action be delayed until he is able to attend a council meeting. The mayor was not present at Tuesday’s meeting. If the ordinance is passed a second time in November, it would become city law within 30 days.

Currently all such temporary signs are illegal if they are placed on a municipal sidewalk or within any city right-of-way. The changes were in response to a business owner’s request 18 months ago to allow the temporary signs within city right-of-way. The request was made by the owners of Weber’s BBQ located in the heart of the Manteca Industrial Park blocks off heavily traveled roads. The city had removed two A-frame signs they had - one at the corner of Main and Wetmore and the other at Mellon Avenue and Industrial Park. The owner subsequently placed sign wavers along Main Street.

Some favored enforcing existing sidewalk sign ban

Under rules tentatively adopted by the council on Tuesday regarding signs specifically on city sidewalks:

• A frames and banner flag signs may only be placed in front of the actual business they advertise.

• Businesses in shopping centers and office complexes can not have A-frames or banner flags.

• Human signs are limited to one per business at any given time and are not restricted where they may go except within the 20-foot visual triangle at controlled intersections. They may operate only between sunrise and sunset nor can they generate any noise such as shouting at motorists or using devices such as bull horns.

• A-frames and banner flags must be a foot from the curb plus allow at least three feet on one side for safe passage for pedestrians to meet federal and state handicapped access requirements. That means any sidewalk four feet or less in width would not be able to have any type of A-frame placed on them.

• One A-frame or one banner flag sign will be allowed per 50 linear feet of business frontage along a city sidewalk.

• Banner flags may not be placed in holes drilled for Flags over Manteca on the days the flags are out.

Some speakers at the Tuesday meeting wanted the city to keep the ban against temporary signs on sidewalks in place and enforce the law as it is now written.

The proliferation of banner flags and A-frames “gives an impression of an open air mall” noted Leonard Smith in speaking for banning temporary signs.

Councilman John Harris read from an e-mail sent to him and his colleagues from John McCloud.

McCloud, who recently moved to Manteca, liked the fact commercial streets are lined with signs as compared to “the sterile environment of the Bay Area.’ He said without the various signs he’d have no idea what was in stores as he drive by and therefore would end up doing his shopping at Wal-Mart.

“I see this as a big overreach of power,” Mary Ashford told the council of the proposal to regulate signs on city sidewalks.

David Marks was pleased the city backed off from recommendations to ban sign wavers within 100 feet of controlled intersections. However, he implored the council not to adopt any rules that would limit the ability of protestors carrying signs whether they were “Occupy Wall Street or the Tea Party” from being able to get their message across near heavily traveled intersections.

Richard Hansen likened the ordinance changes to socialism saying that instead of adopting the new rules “why not just put a lock on businesses.”