When I spoke to the Planning Commission last month, I spoke against the electronic sign, which was the correct thing to do there. I was looking at the sign from a very granular level, a myopic and focused position which, as I see it, is the proper perspective for that body. Now that the matter has moved on to the City Council, it needs to be viewed from an overarching and holistic perspective, an elevated position that goes beyond the sign itself and considers the greater needs of our community.
Since the Planning Commission meeting, I have been listening to community members regarding their feelings about Gilroy. With some, I brought up the sign and with others, I did not. While all had their own personal perspectives on issues, there was a general theme that the city was not doing enough, and this is not unusual.
For years now, Gilroy has been forced to play “Whack-a-Mole” with the few dollars it has to spend. Essentially, we’re broke, and just barely keeping a lid on things until our revenue increases. A well-written electronic sign ordinance might give our city a bigger hammer, so when we whack the next mole, it stays whacked. However, any electronic sign contract can only be negotiated after approving the ordinance. We then must rely on the city’s good judgment and oversight to do this, which we did in 2008 and that resulted in Glen Loma. The city and the sign people may believe that they can restrict certain advertising, but the courts may not agree upon First Amendment challenges. We do not need to “marry in haste” as there are so many better opportunities yet to come for Gilroy.
I have used the term “battered city syndrome,” as Gilroy has been abused and disrespected by private developers, as well as the Fed, State and County governments for so long, that now, any attention we may receive is welcomed. I honestly do not believe that there is enough lipstick to make this sign attractive to most Gilroyans.
We are celebrating Gilroy’s 153rd anniversary. Back then, you would find hitching posts and water troughs on Monterey Road. The automobile arrived and soon the horses were relegated to the barn. Highway road signs emerged to help drivers on their journey. They proliferated all through the 20th century until the passage of Lady Bird Johnson’s Highway Beautification Act, which regulated signs on Federally funded roads.
While electronic signs represent the culmination of road sign evolution, their time has passed. They are relics from the last century. Our sign ordinance should not be changed to accommodate a dying form of advertising. The public has moved on, and now uses cell phones to achieve the same results offered by road signs.
I do not want to see Gilroy crucified on an electronic cross of fool’s gold.