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Planners Discuss Downtown Business Signs
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Vertical flag/banner signs in front of Riverbank businesses might be prohibited, if they are new, but might be allowed to continue if in place before the 2015 enactment of the Downtown Specific Plan and its sign ordinances, according to city staff. These examples are all found within a few blocks on Atchison Street in the downtown specific plan district. - photo by Ric McGinnis
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Businessman Pete DeMattos, partner in Kiwi’s Custom Guns in downtown Riverbank, addresses the Planning Commission during a discussion on enforcement of the Downtown Specific Plan’s sign ordinances. Some businesses are reportedly finding the rules too restrictive and wish to have more signage opportunities. - photo by Ric McGinnis

Possible changes on the horizon for Riverbank city ordinances highlighted the Planning Commission meeting this past week.

Commissioners heard a presentation on the possibility of allowing a modification in how business signs are utilized in the downtown area.


Downtown Specific Plan

Members of the commission hosted a workshop, listening to requests for changes in the Downtown Specific Plan (DTSP) regarding its ordinances for how and where businesses there can display their signs.

The boundaries of the downtown area of Riverbank are defined as stretching between Callander Avenue to the west and Fourth Street to the east, and from Patterson to the south to Atchison/Highway 108 to the north, but includes the 108 corridor to the Seventh Street city limits.

Planning and Building Department Manager Donna Kenney presented a PowerPoint illustrating the kinds of signs that are permitted by the DTSP.

During the following discussion, representatives from Kiwi’s Custom Guns spoke requesting reconsideration of what signs are allowed, especially those that help potential customers find the historical downtown shopping area. The gun shop specializes in restoration of military firearms and also manufactures modern weapons and offers retail sales.

Co-owner Pete DeMattos spoke, saying the DTSP is too restrictive. Kenney said the rules allow them to have only one temporary A-frame or sandwich board type sign, directly in front of their business.

Apparently, there have been complaints about the gun shop’s use of these type signs in other areas of downtown and also in other areas of Riverbank.

DeMattos pointed out that his company noticed a difference in its volume of business when the signs were out, compared to when they weren’t, indicating they had a positive impact on the shop’s level of business.

He said use of the signs has included placement in the Crossroads area, both on residential streets and in the shopping center there. Some have been seen as far away as across Claribel on Roselle Avenue, outside of city jurisdiction, in the county.

While public input had been sought through a letter sent to residents and businesses covered by the DTSP, longtime downtown resident Evelyn Halbert was the only other speaker at the meeting.

Halbert was a member of the Downtown Revitalization Committee back in 2005, when the plan was first proposed. For a variety of reasons, the final version of the plan was not codified and enacted until May of 2015.

She stressed a need to maintain the ‘historic’ nature of Riverbank’s downtown area.

After the discussion, commissioners directed Kenney and her staff to continue studies into the matter, and to bring back more information at a future meeting.


Current Signage

A cursory tour of some of the downtown business area shows a variety of levels of compliance with the sign ordinances.

Staff has pointed out that perceived violations of the ordinances are only pursued on a case-by-case basis, when complaints are filed, as there are limited resources to enforce the codes.

And non-conforming signs that have been in use since before the ordinances were enacted, in 2015, were ‘grandfathered’ in, at least until they are replaced. Those new signs are required to be in conformance with the current rules, they said.

A drive down Atchison Street, typical of the business area, shows new, and old, signs that don’t conform to the ordinances. The average person likely wouldn’t know which comply and which do not.

In some locations, multiple sandwich board style signs are evident, where the rules call for just one per business.

The vertical, flag style banners that flap in the wind are another example. At some businesses, they have been in use for a while, but at others they have been recently installed.

In one instance, the banner style flag is across the street from the business it advertises, an apparent violation. In another, there are multiple ground signs in use, some blocking the sidewalk and another blocking the bicycle lane of the street adjacent.

The city’s Planning and Building Department can be reached at 209-863-7124 for more information.

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Sandwich board, or A-frame signs like these, even if on private property, are limited to just one per business, and those which block the sidewalk or vehicle right-of-way, even if it’s just in the bike path, are prohibited by the city’s Downtown Specific Plan and its sign ordinances. - photo by Ric McGinnis