What ever happened to the Auto Center sign on 101?

Red Phone


Are there any plans to bring back the Gilroy Auto Center sign located north of the Leavesley exit on the west side of Hwy 101? The lack of use and maintenance of the sign are resulting in neglect.

This is something for Gilroy Chamber of Commerce along with the city to champion and bring back, so area businesses can advertise special events like the annual Garlic Festival. The electronic sign can display just more than time & temperature.

Red Phone:

Red Phone likes to be challenged with two questions at the same time, good caller, especially if they are about the commercial development of Gilroy. The first inquiry is about the billboard urging old car enthusiast to buy a new car in Gilroy, which would save them some bucks. It says, “Drive a Little, Save a Lot!” Red Phone contacted Tammy Brownlow, who is the President/CEO of the Gilroy Economic Development Corporation for some answers.

Brownlow said, “I had investigated the situation with the auto dealers freeway sign a few years ago. Of the original auto dealers association that had the sign installed, only two dealers are still in Gilroy (Frank Bolea and Mike Greenwood). The last I heard, the dealers were investigating refurbishing the existing sign or working with the city to identify a new location.” Mr. Bolea is the owner of Gilroy Toyota, and Mr. Greenwood is the owner of South County Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge.

Red Phone called Brian Greenwood, who is the general manager of South County Chrysler, and asked if there were any concrete plans to refurbish the sign. Greenwood said, “When the property that the sign sits on was sold to another owner, we lost the rights to the sign. However, we are now talking to interested parties to put up a new sign for the auto mall on Hwy 101. The auto mall goes back to 1988, and the billboard was probably put up in the early 1990s.”

Regarding the question about putting up an electronic display to welcome visitors and announce city events, Brownlow said, “My organization has also investigated the possibility of placing a new digital sign on the freeway that could be used to promote Gilroy-specific events and local businesses, in addition to national advertisers. As you can imagine, these billboards are very costly and in order to maintain local control we would likely need a partnership to absorb initial costs.”

What are the costs associated with a new sign? Red Phone contacted Henry Servin, Gilroy Public Works Division. Servin said, “The State of California, through Caltrans would need to conduct an initial review as they control Outdoor Display Advertising visible from the freeway. They charge a substantial fee to conduct a review.”

Following the money (jokingly, of course!), Red Phone contacted Caltrans Public Information Officer, Bernard Walik, who referred Red Phone to a website on California Encroachment Permits. According to the website, a permit is required when advertisements are within, under, or over state highway rights of way; in this case Hwy 101. The cost to calculate the permit fees is $82 per hour. But, there is more documentation that needs to be submitted with the permit application, too much to list here.
So, good caller and other billboard enthusiasts, at least a new auto mall sign is in the works.