|'Friendly City’ sign getting facelift to upgrade its look
David Armstrong leads volunteers in obtaining funds to RP landmark
The iconic “Rohnert Park – The Friendly City” sign is getting a facelift and probably will be gleaming with its new look in time for the city’s anniversary celebration next month. RP’s City Council approved the renovation at their Tuesday night meeting.
Spearheaded by David Armstrong, local chiropractor and former chairman of the planning commission, a committee collected volunteer financial contributions, tools and labor to get the project going. Most interesting, Maurice and Betty Fredericks pitched in with a $3,000 donation as a “down payment.” Fredericks, co-founder of the city along with Paul Golis, could easily be the only one left who actually saw the sign installed.
It has an interesting history. It was erected at a virtually treeless strip along the new freeway. Pete Callinan, RP’s first mayor and city manager, said, “I came to the town in 1959 and joined its Community Services District. I was working for Kaiser Sand and Gravel as an accountant, you remember Kaiser with its trucks all decked out with their ‘Find a Need and Fill It’ slogan. The sign was already in place, developers paid for it, so it must have been built somewhere around ’57. Five years later the city was incorporated.
So the sign was in existence when the first families moved into A Section in 1957. The city honored the 50th anniversary of this with a celebration held in the Girl Scout Hut in A Section behind John Reed School (RP’s first school) in 2007.
The sign used to have “Sonoma State College” listed and for a while, it slowly revolved.
Armstrong came up with a budget of $24,500 for the project, with crews from John MacArthur’s Dept. of Public Works led by Tom Kelly, and Reyff Electric replacing the old panels, fitting in new ones with interior LED lighting and required rewiring work. A sensor on top for nighttime viewing will trigger the lighting. There will be no exterior lighting, just the LED panels at night.
The list of volunteers is a lengthy one with Codding Enterprises, Rancho Cotati Rotary, Active 20/30 Club, Liberty Valley Doors, Hertz Rental, Innovative Screen Printing and many others. They’re still accepting donations, and to join them, contact Armstrong at 328-4238.
The city council thanked Armstrong and his crews for pulling the project together and was assured it would be completed by Sept. 15, in time for the city’s next celebration honoring the incorporation papers signing.
Councilman Amy Ahanotu wondered about the sign’s visibility as the trees continue to grow. “The city should look carefully into the landscaping here,” he said.
Mayor Jake Mackenzie had questions about the sign’s “brightness” at night. “Some people say the sign is not ‘sophisticated enough’ for a city this size,” the third largest in Sonoma County.
Armstrong indicated the changes would be “modest” in scope. The basic sign will not be garish – its original appearance will be faithfully retained as it gains historic value as the years go by and it becomes truly iconic.