Jerry Ramirez, owner of Eagle Nest Cycles on Main Street and Margeurita Avenue, is frustrated with what he sees as an unfair divide. He received a notice this fall from Alhambra’s Development Services Department telling him he can no longer have a sandwich-board sign — those "A"-shaped signs — on the sidewalk in front of his store. Yet, just a few blocks away, shops and restaurants such as Rick's Drive In & Out, Fronteras Mexican Grill & Cantina, and 58 Facets leave their signs on the sidewalk.
“How am I supposed to advertise? No one can see us at all because of the trees. People get lost on this street because there’ s no signs pointing them to the stores,” Ramirez said. “My store really needs advertisement.”
The difference is a question of zoning. The city maintains that businesses outside of the Downtown Revitalization District — Main Street west of Third Street and east of Chapel Avenue — are not allowed to display signs. Business owners outside of the Revitalization District can apply for a permit to display a banner, flyer, or sign outside for a brief period of time.
“It’s a zoning issue,” Assistant to the City Manager Christopher Paulson said. “Businesses that aren’t located in the Downtown Revitalization District aren’t allowed to have signs in public property such as the sidewalk and the grass area.”
The policy has left some Alhambra business owners like Ramirez — who has since brought his sign inside — confused and angry.
“If they don’t want us to have signs outside, they should tell us why we aren’t allowed to have them,” said another Alhambra business owner who wished to remain anonymous. “We are just told we can’t. After we get notices, the city needs to inform the business owners of their rights.”
One business owner accepted the regulation and compromised with the city. “It is what it is,” said Jose Lara, owner of Audio Specialist on Main and Marguerita. Lara has kept his signs but is displaying them inside the store or through the window, a tactic many of the business owners are applying.
Clara Contreras, owner of Design Haircuts on Atlantic and Valley boulevards, used to have a sign outside her door promoting services and products. Like Ramirez, she received a note last summer from the city stating that she needed to bring the sign inside or she would face a fine. She removed the sign and now relies on her customers to pass along recommendations.
“I don’t know why they don’t just let us have the signs," Contreras said. "It’s not hurting anyone.”