New-style banners quite common in RP, Cotati, but also violate city ordinances
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By Jud Snyder  March 29, 2013 12:00 am

You can’t help but notice the proliferation of a new type of attention-grabbing signs now quite common along Commerce Boulevard and other well-traveled traffic arteries in both Rohnert Park and Cotati. These are vertical panels attached to slender poles and allowed to flutter in breezes. 

They’re replacing, or augmenting the more common A-frame signs sitting on the ground.

The problem is both are illegal.

Rohnert Park’s zoning ordinance includes section 17.27.050 and it says, under the category of prohibited signs are “Attention attracting devices (such as) balloons, banners, beacons, blinking or traveling lights, flashing messages, inflatable signs, pennants, search lights, spinners, streamers and other similar attention-attracting devices are prohibited. This does not include temporary banners, electronic message boards or time and temperature devices as permitted.”

Still permitted are political campaign signs, which have a certain time to be erected and a limit on when they have to be pulled down. The many vertical banners now visible were too new for the 2012 election, but they might be utilized in 2014.

The second problem is in enforcing the ordinance. RP has a Code Compliance Officer, Doug Hearn. But he only works part time – Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. He does have the power to issue citations, but the ordinance does not mention any punishment for violators, neither jail time or misdemeanor fines.

Police departments in either city are not involved, for vertical banners and A-frame signs are on private property. Police officers can respond to an actual crime or investigate a past crime in a commercial or residential property, but as of now, checking for violations of a sign ordinance isn’t included.

Hearn’s most common function is to check private properties for abandoned cars, vehicles being worked on in front yards or driveways, piles of discarded lumber or similar unsightly conditions.  

According to Susan Azevedo of RP’s building and planning department, “Doug Hearn can get people to take down the vertical banner, but a few days later they’re back up again.”

Apparently, RP and Cotati have not taken a “hard-nosed” approach to these sign ordinance violations in these days of economic recession. Those who would like to see a black and white city rulebook have to settle for a built-in gray zone. 

Years ago, Cotati took a tough stance against a multitude of A-frame signs at the shopping center on East Cotati Avenue, where Oliver’s Market is located. It didn’t work as you can tell today.

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