ALHAMBRA — In a surprise move, the city last week obtained a temporary injunction halting construction of a 78-foot-high business sign just as workmen were about to begin installation.
Until the city got the injunction late Friday afternoon, workers and city code enforcement officials were locked in a standoff at the site.
The council had previously approved a zoning change allowing installation of the free-standing sign in a residential neighborhood, despite vehement opposition from nearby residents in both Alhambra and Monterey Park. Residents described the sign as a "monstrosity" and an "eyesore."
The sign, planned for the corner of 6th Street and Ramona Road, sits near the border between the two cities. Supporting poles for the sign have already been put into place.
Meeting in emergency session last Thursday, the council decided to re-examine whether the sign qualifies for an exemption under the city's sign ordinance.
David and Brad Perrin, who want to install the sign to advertise their Almansor Court restaurant, had announced earlier that they would eventually donate the sign to the city. City staff had concluded that since the city would eventually own the sign and the land it sits on, it could be exempt from height and other regulations. On the basis of that report, the City Council originally agreed to allow the sign to be installed.
The restaurant, completed in 1986 as part of a project of the redevelopment agency and Almansor Court Inc., is located on the municipal golf course off Mission Road, several miles north of the San Bernardino Freeway.
The city also filed a lawsuit Friday against Almansor Court Inc., contending that the proposed sign violates restrictions in the city's sign ordinance, said Assistant City Atty. Robert Wadden. A court hearing is scheduled Feb. 22.
Workers arrived at the site at 8:30 a.m. Friday to begin installing the sign.
Emmy Lou Creekmur, who lives directly across from the site, called city officials to complain.
City code enforcement officials went to the site to ensure that the sign did not go up while other city officials went to Los Angeles Superior Court to seek the injunction.
Brad Perrin, who would not comment on the city's action, eventually notified nine workers at the site that the city had obtained the retraining order.
John Austin, a foreman for Carey Sign and Graphics of Anaheim, said the Perrins had informed him of the controversy so he was not surprised at the court-ordered delay. The Alhambra sign would be one of the largest double-faced signs in the country, Austin said. The sign is 50 by 20 feet and, once erected, 78 feet high.
'A Healthy Size Sign'
Jerry Swormstedt, publisher of Signs of the Times, a sign industry trade publication, said such a sign would not set a record, but added, "That's a healthy size sign, no question about it."
Most large billboards in California range from 12 by 25 feet to 14 by 48 feet, said Stan Lancaster, chief of the state Department of Transportation's outdoor advertising branch.
The Perrins are proposing to build another freeway sign in Montebello, 42 by 38 feet, to advertise their Quiet Cannon restaurant there.
Although pleased with the city's change-of-heart on the sign, residents at an Alhambra council meeting Tuesday said there are still questions they want answered about why the city initially approved the sign.
"I'd like to know why it took until Feb. 10 for the City Council's outrage to reach a point that it finally acted," resident Jim Wenck said.
Close to Success
Residents said they will not celebrate for fear they may be premature.
"We are happy about it," Clifford Chen said of the council's decision to oppose the sign. "We're only reserving our judgment."
The residents had been close to success once before. Based on evidence they provided, a state Department of Transportation official notified the Perrin brothers Jan. 18 that a state permit for the sign had been issued by mistake.
A land surveyor's report submitted by the residents group showed that the proposed site is not within 1,000 feet of a commercial use, as required by state law, according to a letter from Lancaster.
A supermarket on Hellman Avenue, which a state inspector had determined was within 1,000 feet of the sign site, is 1,022.80 feet away, according to the surveyor's report, Lancaster said.
"They blew it," Lancaster said of his inspectors' initial measurement.
Although construction work on the sign was halted, the residents' elation was short-lived.
Early last week, after the Perrins argued that a preschool in Monterey Park qualified as a commercial use and was within 1,000 feet of the sign site, Caltrans granted them permission to install the sign.
"When we realized that the sign would go up, we had to react," said Councilwoman Barbara Messina.
Monterey Park City Atty. Stephanie Scher said she will be happy to work with Alhambra officials in their fight against the sign, which is also of concern to some Monterey Park residents.