Grass Valley sign ordinance won’t address social issues |

Grass Valley sign ordinance won’t address social issues

Despite weeks of public outcry, Grass Valley’s sign policies will not be changing, the City Council has decided.

Last month the city had at least two downtown businesses remove signs supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, which led public commenters to ask the council to address the issue at each subsequent meeting. Pete’s Pizza and Tap House and Mint Grass Valley were asked to remove their signs.

On Tuesday, the council declined to make any changes, explaining the regulating of signs is a quality of life issue that if not upheld would lead the city to disrepair.

“Signage becomes litter if it’s not regulated,” said Councilman Howard Levine, who spent more than a decade involved in crafting design guidelines as the executive director of Grass Valley Downtown Association.

“I worked hard to regulate those and make sure we took away every poster that was put up, every banner that was erroneously affixed, every A-frame sign that was put out on the sidewalk, because it just grows like a cancer,” he said.

As the sign regulations stand, a business would still be able to display the signs inside the establishment, but any displays outside or in windows would be restricted to those specifically allowed under city guidelines. Signs in historic districts are restricted to historic signs or signs that advertize that business.

According to a letter sent by the city to Pete’s Pizza and Tap House, the city received multiple complaints about their window display which featured the words “Black Lives Matter” along with a clenched black fist outlined in white.

The letter says the display violated city sign standards by exceeding the number of allowed signs and the maximum amount of window coverage, which must not take up more than 15% of the total window area. It gave the establishment one week to remove the sign, with a possible fine of $1,000 per day if it remained up.

Pete’s Pizza and Tap House owner Lorri Flores said she took the message down, but not before she received threatening phone calls after the display was posted to a local Facebook group.

According to the council, it’s received a wide range of comments on the signs, from people claiming they would never shop in Grass Valley again if not taken down, to others who feel they should remain up as a free speech issue.

“It’s been really eye opening,” said Sam Anderson, owner of Mint. “I didn’t know how many people were on the other side­­ — I didn’t realize how many people in our town supported racism and bigotry.”

Anderson said even after taking down the signs he’s received threats on Facebook.

The council emphasized the regulations of signs and calls for racial justice are separate issues.

“The sign ordinance isn’t an effective place to begin that conversation,” Councilwoman Hilary Hodge said. “The social movement of affirming Black lives is not dependent on signs, it’s dependent on whether we see our fellow man as human and valuable.”

According to Hodge, the council will continue to look for ways to advance that dialogue, including a possible town hall, and encouraged neighbors to have the conversation with each other.

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email or call 530-477-4229.

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