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Car Dealers Get Sign Laws Just for Them

The auto dealers said their unique businesses with outdoor inventory needed special rules so they can appeal to I-5 drivers.

The auto dealers in San Juan Capistrano now have a just for them.

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the new sign laws, the first significant change since a law governing business signage was passed in 1978.

Everything does NOT go with the new sign ordinance, said Bill Ramsey, assistant director of community development. The car dealers would be allowed to use temporary signage, such as banners and flags, tents, bounce houses and window stickers.

But they won’t be allowed floating blimps, inflatable dancing men or a giant, blow-up gorilla and the like, Ramsey said.

Auto dealers have been working for the change because they believe their outdoor inventory makes traditional sign rules tricky.

Tim Aldrich, representing , Kia and Honda, said the market for automobiles in San Juan Capistrano is less than half that of Irvine’s auto center. So the ability to catch the eye of drivers on I-5 is key.

Gary Willenborg, general manager of , offered a graphic example. In 2011, 258 cars were sold to San Juan Capistrano residents, 255 to those who live within a 10-mile radius of San Juan and another 693 were sold people who live in other market areas.

“That’s 80 percent of our sales outside the city of San Juan Capistrano,” Willenborg said.

City Council members, auto dealers and others noted that the car dealerships provide a , which drive the economy and pay for city services.

“I believe our auto dealers contribute to 27 percent of our sales tax revenues. But regardless of that, it’s the right thing to do,” said Councilman Sam Allevato.

Mayor Larry Kramer said economics is important.

“Here in San Juan Capistrano, we’ve been doing better all the time, and our car dealerships have been doing better. And I think we should encourage them to do better,” he said.

Kramer and Councilman Derek Reeve both voiced confidence that staff would administer the new law fairly and bring anything worthy of more scrutiny to the Planning Commission.

But not everyone in the audience was in favor.

“Our sign ordinance is a sense of pride in this town. We do not allow sign twirlers, we don’t allow neon. I could go on and on,” said resident Clint Worthington.

He worried other businesses will think the new rules also apply to them.

Eric Bergstrom July 21, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Outstanding job, council. Save this article for those in the future who declare this a non-business-friendly town. Thanks for giving these guys a chance to be successful.

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