Councilmember Linda Ryno took a 16-day vacation recently and when she returned took notice of the missing A-frame signs.
"It was really nice to drive into town and see so many of the illegal signs gone," said Ryno. "I mean, there still are a few out there but what an amazing difference. I can't believe it."
Planning & Community Development Director Tom Westbrook credited the business community for voluntary compliance with the sign ordinance and said code enforcement officer Frank Alvarez deserved credit as he made a lot of contact with businesses regarding the sign enforcements.
"There were some folks who just didn't know and so when they got the information they just complied," said Westbrook. "I talked to about 15 folks within the Planning Division that wanted to know, ‘what other options do I have for a permanent signage if I can't have the temporary stuff?'"
Westbrook said he only experienced a couple of business owners who "weren't very happy but generally most people didn't know and were willing to follow the code."
On April 1 city officials began enforcing the ban against illegal signs, including A-frame and so-called feather banner signs set along the roadside or on a sidewalk in front of a business.
A-frame signs have been illegal in Ceres for years but the city interrupted a February crackdown on the signs pending the City Council making a final determination on them. During a Feb. 24 joint meeting with the Planning Commission, the council said that A-frame do detract from the aesthetics of Ceres and must go. The city postponed enforcement until April 1 to give business owners enough time to be educated and comply with the city sign ordinance.
The city is also cracking down on feather banners that fly from a pole, typically a white PVC pipe. Feather banners will only be allowed for grand opening type events but cannot be flown without a permit.
Acting City Manager Toby Wells said that the city is enforcing the sign ordinance on its own as well as on a complaint driven basis.
"There are a few folks that have turned a blind eye to us so we are stepping up enforcement," said Wells. "That means the police department will be involved."
Wells said that a number of community members have given him positive feedback about the cleaner look with the clutter of signs disappearing.
Banners will continue to be allowed for only 90 days per year but a permit would need to be obtained from the Planning Division at City Hall.
The city will be amending its sign ordinance to make car dealers live by the same rules as other businesses. Car lots have been allowed to use feather banners while other types of businesses cannot.
Sign spinners and mannequins holding signs will continue to be against city law.
Businesses will be able to use inflatable signs but only during a special event and only 15 days out of the year. Again, a permit needs to be obtained from the city.
In February officers of the Ceres Police Department began to ask businesses to take down their illegal signs, focusing on Mitchell Road first. Three of 29 businesses complied. City administrators halted the enforcement pending a decision on sign ordinance changes.
Community Development Director Tom Westbrook said the city's code enforcement team will be taking action to remove signs.
The city sign ordinance allows real estate signs and political signs on a limited basis.
Illegal signs are those that constitute a potential traffic hazard by being placed in such a manner as to obstruct free and clear vision of pedestrian traffic, or which simulate in size, color, lettering or design any traffic sign or signal. Illegal signs are any signs within the public right of way, including those on street trees, utility poles, street signals, streetlights, street name signs, traffic warning signs or sidewalks, except official. Signs may not move, swing, rotate, flash, blink or otherwise animated components, except barber poles, clocks, thermometers or electronic changeable copy signs. Also not permitted are windblown devices and signs whose movement is designed to attract attention, such as pennants, flags, inflatable signs or balloons, inflatable animals or similar signs, or reflective attachments to sign faces.
The city sign ordinance also does not permit vehicle signs or signs on or affixed to trucks, vans, automobiles, trailers or other vehicles which advertise, or provide direction to, a use or activity not related to the lawful making of deliveries or sales of merchandise or rendering of service from such vehicle.
Also any signs that are portable or freestanding (not permanently affixed, anchored or secured to the ground or structure) are illegal.