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Poway Car Dealers Seek Leeway for Splashier Signage

The dealers have asked for expanded access to banners, searchlights and inflatables, but some wonder how the changes will affect quality of life in Poway.

Poway's car dealers want to be able to use bigger banners, signs and searchlights to bring in new customers, but concerns about sightlines, quality of life and the looming presence of a giant, inflatable gorilla have given city leaders pause.

Relaxing city signage regulations temporarily was the topic of a Poway City Council workshop on Tuesday that gave rise to debates about effective marketing, balancing business' and residents' needs and making sure the city generates enough revenue to cover rising costs.

"We want the businesses to succeed, but we also have people who live along Poway Road and we need to satisfy both," Councilman Dave Grosch said.

City staff presented examples of several options that would, for a test year, expand the ways car dealers along Poway Road could attract customers, from flashier displays such as large inflatable gorillas and searchlights to basic measures like lightpole signs and suspended banners.

Staff emphasized that these were just examples, though the gorilla—a massive figure customers are likely to have seen elsewhere in the county—attracted many comments as a symbol of a how Poway could cross a line expanding the rules and threaten the quality of life here.

"Over time you will wind up compromising your way to chaos," resident Peter DeHoff said.

Current city regulations limit many of the overt displays, such as searchlights, to special occasions like grand openings and a few weekends per year. But proposals discussed during Tuesday's workshop would increase the number of days such displays could be used and expand the purposes that would be acceptable.

One possibility discussed was allowing dealers to use elaborate displays not just during grand openings, but also over the Fourth of July and a trio of other weekends during the year.

But what worried some councilmembers was the reality that if the rules are changed, they wouldn't apply to just car dealers; other businesses, such as Walmart or liquor stores might be able to use the leeway to their advantage as well.

City staff said they were still determing how to limit the scope of who can operate under the expanded rules without running afoul of equitable use rules.

Councilman Steve Vaus also questioned how effective the extra signs and banners are in generating sales.

"Is there any empirical evidence that suggests that tents and banners and giant inflatables enhance sales?" he asked.

Longtime car dealer Jerry Richardson said they do.

Inflatable slides attract families in to the dealership and, while the children play, their parents get deals done, Richardson said.

He added that dealers are "handcuffed" in Poway with the restrictions, especially considering dealers throughout the rest of the county are able to do more.

Council members discussed whether Poway, being several miles inland from the freeway, is indeed competing with dealerships that line the freeway with massive advertising displays.

Staff is expected to come back with further details at the Feb. 5 meeting.

Stay tuned for more on this topic.

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Clariece Tally January 16, 2013 at 05:22 PM
That's just what Poway Road needs to complete it's complete degradation and slide into just another street of dealerships and strip malls. Giant inflatable gorillas 5 miles inland will not draw customers off the 15. Drive down National City's Mile of Cars to see just how fabulous Poway's future will be.
Mary Lou January 16, 2013 at 05:54 PM
Giant gorillas are almost as scary as giant evil clowns.
Chris Cruse January 16, 2013 at 10:15 PM
Who knew that an inflatable slide was signage? Oh wait, this slide probably has advertising on it that can be seen from miles away. Brilliant! And, um, who is watching the kids break their necks while the parents are car shopping? Hope they aren't planning on putting these in their oversubscribed parking lots and having their employees park in the residential areas again.
Pete Saxon January 16, 2013 at 10:21 PM
I guess they need the additional advertising and promotion for the 4 people in Poway that don't have internet access to shop and compare products online. But this was approved by the same enlightened group that brought us a Super WalMart.
Michelle January 17, 2013 at 01:34 AM
It just goes right up there with employees parking in the residential areas and the semi's driving into the residential area to make "u-turns" and unload the vehicles, causing hazards to other motorist and damaging the street with unnecessay wear and tear. Do we really feel the city cares about the residents or just the all mighty dealerships that get land leases for darn near free?

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