By Steve Dreyer
Poway Road of Cars dealers will likely get some, but perhaps not all of the changes they are seeking to the city’s sign ordinance.
Meeting Tuesday night, council members heard mixed public comments on whether advertising banners, light pole banners, pennants and tents should be allowed without time limits along the city’s main retail road. The four council members attending the meeting (Mayor Don Higginson was absent) seemed inclined to allow the eight dealers to try out those advertising options for one year.
As to whether dealers should be allowed to use searchlights and ground-level inflatables for up to four weekends per year, the council was split.
Comments offered Tuesday night will be incorporated into
proposed changes to the sign code that will come back to the council in the near future.
In a report to the council, City Manager Penny Riley wrote that her staff had met in recent weeks with auto dealer representatives on the issue of signage.
“The auto dealers believe that City sign regulations need to be changed in order to assist the auto dealerships in promoting their special sales events and to avoid losing sales to other parts of the county...” Riley wrote. Any sign code changes would also apply to 12 other businesses that have city-approved outdoor sign displays, such as Home Depot and Wal-Mart, she said.
The current sign code permits permanent wall signs, permanent freestanding signs and certain temporary signs.
All four councilmembers acknowledged that taxes from auto sales are an important revenue stream for the city and that when dealers do well, so does the city.
Deputy Mayor John Mullin was the strongest proponent for allowing the dealers to try all options, with the exception of searchlights, which Mullin said might be OK once a year.
Councilmembers Jim Cunningham and Dave Grosch said a balance needed to be struck between the needs of the dealers and those of residents living in the area.
Councilman Steve Vaus appeared a bit more skeptical of the perceived benefits of relaxing the sign standards. With several auto dealers in the audience, he asked for evidence that banners, flags and other displays result in increased car sales.
“I never bought a car based on an inflatable,” Vaus said.
Similar sentiments were voiced during the public comment period by resident Nick Stavros, who called the increased use of the requested marketing items “so last century.” Poway dealers should spend more effort increasing their Internet and social medial presence, he said.
Jerry Richardson, who has been selling cars in Poway for over 40 years, said signs, banners, tents and inflatables do work. Current city sign laws “handcuff” Poway dealers, putting them at a competitive disadvantage, he said.
Vince Castro, who this weekend is opening his new Toyota of Poway showroom, said he’d list banners and pole signs at the top of his list of desired changes.
Dealers found support in comments by Old Poway Village retail center owner Kevin McNamara and Poway Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dolores Canizales.
“Let them try,” McNamara said, “You can always pull it back after a year.”