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Rocklin cracks down on signage

Some business owners weary of ordinance enforcement
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald correspondent
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It could be seen as a sign of the times. 
 
After concerns raised by Rocklin City Council Member Peter Hill and other city staff, the Rocklin Police Department announced a new enforcement effort aimed at educating business owners skirting relaxed sign placement rules born out of an economic stimulus measure.
 
“I first noticed the sail  signs along Pacific Street, Sunset and Blue Oaks,” Hill said. “At first there were just a few, but now they seem to be multiplying. There is also a rash of non-A-frame signs put out daily and some stuck in the landscaping.”
 
The rules approved in 2009 gave Rocklin businesses the OK to place a banner over their storefront or one A-frame sign in front of their business without the need for a temporary sign permit. The 90-day restriction for those signs was also lifted to year-round. However, banners are still restricted to a maximum size of 32 square feet or smaller. The limited rules are in force until the end of next year.
 
Police Chief Ron Lawrence reported to City Council at the Oct. 23 meeting that placement of the signs is a big problem.
“We estimate that there are a few hundred businesses that are in violation,” Lawrence said. “Many of these signs are commonly placed near property lines, business property entrances or in the public right-of-way, often creating a traffic hazard for motorists.”
 
Code enforcement officers now under the arm of the Rocklin Police Department may be forced to remove signs in bad spots.
The problem is that freestanding temporary signs and special advertising devices like balloons, pennants and wind-walkers are showing up. According to the city, they still require the approval of a temporary sign permit and original time restrictions.
Freestanding temporary signs can only be displayed 90 days in a calendar year and special advertising devices can only be displayed 14 days in a calendar year, according to the ordinance.
 
Letters to business owners warning them of a sign crackdown went out last month with a 90-day grace period before citations begin in January to get businesses in compliance. The city is also warning sign makers not to sell non-compliant signs to businesses in Rocklin.
 
Lawrence told the council the new sail signs, also known as feather signs, are prohibited and are becoming more common.
“The companies that make the signs need to be aware of our rules so they don’t sell a product to someone who thinks they can use it,” City Manager Rick Horst said. “We’re going to make sure they’re educated, as well.”
 
A type of sign targeted for elimination is the pennant, sail or feather sign.
 
“In particular, one of the biggest trends is pennant signs, commonly known as feather signs,” Lawrence said.
 
Rocklin-based Icing on the Cupcake has five feather signs at the Blue Oaks Boulevard location. Despite the ban, they continue to go up because founder and co-owner Christee Owens believes they’re an effective marketing tool.
 
“All of us Rocklin business owners are seeking ways to stand out in a crowd,” Owens said. “Instead of doing away with one of our advertising tools, offer us a reasonable alternative.”
 
Owens also deploys an A-frame sign on the sidewalk on Lonetree Boulevard. That’s OK under the current sign placement rules. Dale Glazer, owner of Rocklin Family Pets and Wash, has two A-frame signs outside his Pacific Street business, which is not allowed.
 
“A-frames are crucial,” he said. “The A-frames absolutely make people who drive by every day notice something new about our business. People come in and say, ‘I saw your sign. I didn’t know you sold dog food.’”
 
Glazer wants A-frames to be a permanent option for business owners, but come Jan. 1, 2014, the relaxed rules will go away and he’ll only be able to put one A-frame out for 90 days if he gets a permit.
 
“Going down the street with a ticket book citing business owners is not going to do anything,” Glazer said. “If they think that is going to end the blight, they are wrong. It will create an adversarial relationship with Rocklin businesses.”
 
Owens, who grew her business from one Rocklin location in 2007 and now has four in the Sacramento region, thinks now is the wrong time for a sign crackdown.
“With so many challenges at hand in this economy, now is not the time to be nit-picking about signage,” Owens said.
 
Hill, who helped craft the original sign ordinance, said the education period is the right way to handle the situation.
 
“It was not malice or deliberate – it is just people are uninformed,” Hill said. “I think the department’s approach is outstanding and exactly the way we should handle it. Educate them on what the rules are and give them some time to get their money out of their signs,  then take them down.”
 
Council Member Diana Ruslin said she talked with business owners and said a grace period is the right approach.
 
“I’ve talked to businesses and they feel so much better that they will have a better understanding on what they can and can’t do in the time frame,” Ruslin said.
 
For more information on sign regulations or on obtaining a temporary sign permit, call the Rocklin Planning Division at 625-5160 or visit www.rocklinpd.com and click on “Sign Placement Information.”