“If I was a business owner wanting to locate a business in Oakley, after listening to this meeting about this sign ordinance, I would get up and walk out. I’d look for a new city,” Bucholz told the council. “You need to learn to give us business owners a little more respect. Oakley has done, from what I’ve seen on the City Council, more to run businesses out of town than they have to try to keep us here.”
Bucholz pointed out that he’s done a lot to bring revenue to Oakley by hosting 67 bass fishing tournaments each year, one of which gains national and international attention.
“One of the things that has really, really assisted me has been my A-frame sign sitting in front of the CentroMart grocery store right now,” he said. “I have had hundreds, if not a thousand people, come into my business and say, ‘We didn’t know you were here. We saw your sign and thought we would stop.’ This sign ordinance right now is the worst you can put up in the worst economic time we are having right now – especially when there’s other issues in the city of Oakley that need to be addressed before this does.”
Also critical of the sign crackdown was Doug Hardcastle, owner of Hardcastle RV Center, who has a 4-by-8-foot sign on Main Street that appeared to conform to the proposed ordinance. But after reading through the 34-page ordinance, he wasn’t sure if it would be allowed and asked city staff about it at Tuesday’s meeting.
“In these times, signs are a very effective way of advertising businesses,” said Hardcastle. “Everybody knows that these are not great economic times. We need to draw people in and slow them down a little bit. People go by there over 50 miles per hour. It’s just another way to try to slow people down, not jump out and scare them – ‘boo!’ or anything like that – just a way of catching people’s eye. You make the codes up, but we have to pay for this. Somebody pays in the end.”
Ken Graunstadt, who owns Delta Scrap and Salvage and was one of the community leaders governing Oakley before it became a city 10 years ago, told the council that it should have gotten more input from business owners before drawing up an ordinance affecting them. “You need to respect and care for the business people,” he said.
City Senior Planner Joshua McMurray said that he had met with the Oakley Chamber of Commerce and the Bay East Association of Realtors to discuss the ordinance while it was being drawn up. There was also a council workshop in April to discuss the ordinance, during which only Councilman Bruce Connelley raised concerns about the detrimental effect on local businesses of banning A-frame signs.
Chamber Vice President Stephanie Bates said that although the chamber had met with city staff a couple months ago, the chamber received the latest draft of the ordinance only a couple days before the meeting and did not have time to review it or get the word out to chamber members about it.
City Manager Bryan Montgomery said that the proposed ordinance is much more business-friendly than the current regulations, which have been in effect since Oakley was under county control and which prohibit A-frame signs altogether. The new ordinance would allow A-frames only if they are temporary and are advertising grand openings and charitable events.
Pointing out that Oakley’s sign ordinance is half as long as Pittsburg’s ordinance, Montgomery added, “We streamlined it and made it more reasonable for local businesses. Every businessperson in this room will be more pleased with what’s proposed than what we have currently.”
Councilwoman Pat Anderson also defended city officials’ efforts to provide more regulation of signage in the city.
“It’s a hodgepodge out there,” she said. “We are trying our best to clean this up, to make this presentable, to have consistency. It’s not an attempt to close businesses. It’s an attempt to do what we’ve been asked to do, which is make this community presentable so we can move forward with economic development. And staying as we are is not going to work.”
The council agreed to hold off on adopting the sign ordinance until its Aug. 11 meeting. In the meantime, city officials are asking council members, business owners and residents to e-mail their suggestions for changes they would like to see made in the ordinance. A copy of the proposed ordinance is available on the city Web site, www.ci.oakley.ca.us, by clicking on the link for item 4.3 on the June 23 City Council agenda.