No more downtown signs, village association decides

David Briggs
The town’s community plan references county ordinances prohibiting all portable signs and billboards posted off the business’s premises. Although those rules have not been enforced, residents are discussing them following a sign theft at the Commons.
06/19/2014

The disappearance of two sandwich boards from the West Marin Commons in May set off a discussion about sign policy at the Point Reyes Station Village Association meeting last Thursday. “Just the past few years I’ve noticed the beginnings of sandwich boards up and down Point Reyes Station, around the corners, when you enter town and leave town. The reality is that those are restricted and not allowed,” said Pamela Bridges, who led the discussion. “A merchant says, ‘Hey, they have a sandwich board. I’ll make mine a little bigger. And I’ll put a balloon on it.’ Suddenly, it looks like Bodega Bay.” 

Residents dug up copies of the 2001 Community Plan and found signs must strictly comply with regulations, including a ban on portable A-frame signs. Although compliance with Policy CL-4.2 may seem minor, enforcement of the community plan is essential for keeping the town the way it is, particularly as each summer brings more tourists, Ms. Bridges said. She suggested the P.R.S.V.A. vote on a letter addressed to downtown merchants informing them that portable signs are prohibited. 

But many attendees said signage popped up perennially and wondered if a strongly worded letter would be effective. “My real frustration is that this has come up over and over again. How do we enforce this?” said Mark Switzer, the chair of the commons. “If it rises to the level that people are stealing signs because there’s no enforcement, I think that’s really counterproductive and it really creates tension that doesn’t need to be there.” 

According to the plan’s sign policy, the county can levy a $50 fine for the first offense, and increase the fine with each violation; however, the enforcement officer has historically ignored the issue. 

Vigilante justice could send a strong message, as it did in prompting that meeting’s very discussion, said Koré D’Abravanel, who proposed a group in the style of the Bolinas Border Patrol to round up delinquent advertising. 

Dan Mankin, the executive director of the Dance Palace, which had a sign stolen, quickly denounced the idea. “It was a really nasty, horrible act right before our fundraiser,” he said. “This kind of vigilante thing doesn’t belong in a small community. It’s unfriendly. It’s unjust. It’s unkind.” 

“But they were illegal,” Ms. D’Abravanel replied. 

“It’s crappy. It’s shitty. It shouldn’t be done,” Mr. Mankin continued, raising his voice. “They took the law into their own hands and they acted poorly and they should be condemned by this community, not encouraged.” 

Most murmured in agreement with him. 

Luke Regalbuto, who chaired the meeting, said he hoped the issue could be settled without hostility. “We have so many big things on the plate for this community, whether it’s the Grandi Building or the Coast Guard. Huge issues,” he said. “If we can’t work together on signs, it’s going to be much more difficult and we’re in trouble. I think everybody has the best interest at heart, and it’s just a matter of figuring out the technicalities.”