SJ business owners upset over signs

May 8, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
San Jose business owners are fighting city hall. They say in this tough economy, they need help attracting customers and they believe that means changing an out-dated sign ordinance.

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In some cities signs and billboards are everywhere, but in San Jose they are not -- for a reason.

San Jose's current sign ordinance doesn't allow for any new billboards to go up and only existing ones can be modified. This ordinance hasn't been upgraded in 17 years.

Business owners insist- change is necessary, especially in this slow economy. They say the bigger the ad space the better.

All American Fitness owner Richard Brooks says his storefront sign is considered a billboard. Brooks can't even add the fact that he sells fitness equipment on his sign because of its small size. He says the city's sign ordinance is hurting his business.

"Because of the poor signage that we're limited too I think people are missing us," says Brooks.

The city gets their point. So it's holding community meetings.

"There's still concern about the blighting influence, but there's much more recognition today that signs can help you build the community they want to have," says Susan Walton, a San Jose principal planner.

High quality, electronic, flat screen billboards seem most attractive to residents, but they're not common in San Jose. Plain ones covered with paper are.

"I like the idea that there's not going to be as many billboards," says San Jose resident Emma Harris.

Regardless, general manager J.B. Schutte of the Oakridge Mall isn't asking for anything more than the basics, especially on major highways.

"How can we improve sales tax in San Jose? The biggest thing is to invite them to get off the freeway and stop in San Jose," says Schutte.

Another community response meeting is set for next month.

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