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Cerean asks for city to crackdown on garage sale signs
City ready to unleash volunteers on city eyesores
Yard sale sign
The city wants to get out the word that the practice of putting up yard sale signs on poles and other devices is not only against the law but adding blight to the community. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Armed with a number of illegally placed yard sale signs that she ripped down herself, Eileen Pratt asked the Ceres City Council to enforce existing law that forbids such ad devices.

Pratt also asked when she might be called as a volunteer on the new blight crackdown team, called VICE or Volunteers in Code Enforcement. She said she applied to be a volunteer over six months ago.

"This is just last week," said Pratt, holding up the signs. "One day I went all around my area and this is what I took off the poles. This is pollution, a bunch of trash. Now they get smart; they don't put their address on it so you can't leave it at their door step."
She said when she returned to check the area, "they're all back up."

A total of six people, Pratt included, have applied to be a part of VICE.

"I haven't heard anything," said Pratt. "Just wondering what this process is to fill the position. In the meantime I'm going to volunteer in the Boothe/Fowler area to take down this trash because it's an eyesore and looks awful. I'll do my part. I recommend everybody in their area take it down. This dirties up the city. We have enforcement to take down these banners that are in front of businesses and this is just part of it. I'm tired of looking at trash on the poles."

The signs are an indication that many people are not getting permits to hold yard sales since the application clearly states that garage sale signs may only be placed at the site of the sale itself, said Fire Chief Bryan Nicholes who is in charge of the code enforcement unit.
Nobody on the council dais addressed Pratt.

The VICE program has been delayed because there wasn't an applicant for the key need for a clerical volunteer to process paperwork, said Nicholes.

"Just having somebody or various people volunteer four to five hours a day would be huge," he said. He noted that a lot of documentation is required for one abatement of a nuisance and the city's lone code enforcement officer, Frank Alvarez, is "so buried in paperwork."

Nicholes said Pratt could be best utilized pulling down "as many signs as you can take down."

Nothing prohibits average citizens from removing yard sale signs on their own but doing so under the auspices of a city volunteer unit gives them more authority if confronted, Chief Nicholes said.

"Some people look at you like you're taking a baby from them. No, no, you're putting up a sign on a utility pole. That's illegal and we want the people taking them down know why it's not allowed. It's not just that it makes things look ugly - we have a sign ordinance - but if you put it on a utility pole, not only does some guy have to climb that pole eventually with all them nails and stuff sticking out is a hazard but that's private property. That's a misdemeanor crime. That's a part of the education that we need to do to people prior to us going out and beating the drum that this is bad."

Other types of illegal signs are A frame signs and cardboard boxes with messages set up on sidewalks.
"They're putting them in the public way, on sidewalks, in the streets ... which still isn't right."

He said sales should be advertised the legal way, such as in the paper or in social media.

The problem is only exacerbated with people leave their signs up on poles. It's not uncommon for the city to find signs weeks old.

"We shouldn't be responsible to take your sign down," said Nicholes. "Either they forget - and I'll give some of them that - or they figure somebody else will get it, I don't care, I made my money and that's just not a good attitude either."

Enforcement of illegal yard sale signs is limited to one part-time effort on Fridays and a volunteer on weekends.

The city charges $5 for a permit and limits an address to two sales per calendar year. Those without a permit risk having their sale closed down until they get one.

"It's not to keep people from having them, it's just to make sure that you're not having them as your sole source of income."

Nicholes said yard sales are not the sole source of illegal signs. He said Alvarez routinely fills large plastic garbage bags filled with illegal signs for work from home schemes, repair services, weight loss, satellite dish companies and subdivision sales located in other cities.

Applications for the VICE program are available at the Ceres Fire Station.