Car Dealers Can't Get Commission's Thumbs Up for New Signage Rules

Unable to get a majority decision, the non-vote serves as a recommendation for denial to the City Council, which will hear the matter next.

San Juan Capistrano auto dealers have been working on some new signage rules which would cater more to their businesses, but the Planning Commission is recommending against them.

The City Council will take the issue up later this month and have the final word. You can see the kinds of signage the dealers are proposing – and willingly prohibiting .

. But that deal expires July 21. So the dealers are looking for a permanent set of rules.

“The last 4 years have been the most difficult in my 33-year career in the auto business,” said Roger Hogan, owner of . He is particularly interested in making sure he can pitch tents for the annual Toyota Tent Event.

“If you don’t have a tent on your lot, it looks like you’re not even participating in a regional marketing event,” he said.

Miles Brandon, owner of , said the dealers are only proposing signage that is “in the spirit of the city.”

Aesthetics plays an an important role in signage laws, according to a city staff report.

"The overall objective of the proposed project was to provide automobile dealerships with more choices and flexibility to market their products through various forms of signage while maintaining consistency with the city's architectural design guidelines," the report states.

Meanwhile, dealers say they are fighting for their very livelihood.

“The promotions we can do off the freeway are so vital to us,” Brandon said, referencing the competition from other auto dealers in South Orange County and clutter from other forms of advertising.

But Planning Commissioners last week were clearly divided on the issue and could not get a motion to support the dealers’ request approved. The lack of a successful vote serves as a recommendation for denial.

“Business cycles come and go, and it’s been a tough few years for many businesses, but I don’t’ want to back down on something that in a few years we may regret,”  said Commissioner Gene Ratcliffe.


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