Mission council advances code change that makes room for ‘historic’ signs

The owners of Casey’s Auto Repair say they plan to reface the old Sinclair sign on their Johnson Drive auto shop.

The Mission city council has advanced a change to the city’s code that will allow pole signage with historical significance to remain standing in the city.

The Mission council voted 7-0 Wednesday to approve code changes that will permit the use of decades-old commercial signs now standing within the city limits. The permissibility of those signs was in question after Mission regulated pole signage three years ago.

The code revision, titled “Signs of Historic Significance,” is designed to fill the gap in city code where certain signs fall but were not previously regulated, said city administrator Laura Smith at the May 29 planning commission meeting.

The new code is “really intended to provide that mechanism to preserve or maintain signage that contributes to the character, history or identity, which otherwise would be prohibited,” Smith had said at the planning commission meeting.

The council also approved ordinance changes that “clean up” the code on signage. The new code is designed to preserve that “sense of place” in Mission while also protecting against the inappropriate re-use of non-conforming signs, Smith added. All signs protected under the new code must be safe and well maintained.

Smith said Mission staff has been reviewing city code on signage since 2015 — at the time, the focus was on regulating temporary signage. The Mission council adopted a new code last year, after which staff heard concerns from the community on the revisions, especially as they pertain to pole signs, including an old Sinclair pole sign outside the Casey’s Auto Repair location on Johnson Drive.

“I would just like to state that the people that have gone through this with the city, I personally and professionally want to extend any apology for any vulnerability there was with miscommunication or issues with the city,” said councilwoman Debbie Kring to members of the public at the council meeting Wednesday. “I think this was a unique scenario and a unique situation that we have an opportunity to do something about.”

Kring added that she thinks the Sinclair pole sign shouldn’t be subject to the same regulations because it’s installed on top of the canopy of the old gas station, unlike traditional “pole signs.”

The Caseys had told the planning commission that they intend to reface the Sinclair sign.

“When you think about Mission, the thing that comes to mind is Johnson Drive,” Appletoft said, citing the city’s need to work together with small businesses in downtown Mission. “That’s our brand, and I’m a big supporter of anything that’s going to maintain the viability and the vitality of that corridor. It’s important that we maintain that partnership between the city and businesses.”

The planning commission recommended the revision in a 6-1 vote May 29, with planning chair Mike Lee casting the dissenting vote. Lee had expressed concerns that the old Sinclair pole sign is “abandoned” according to city code and should be removed.

Lee said he didn’t “see much in Mission that has any historical significance from a sign standpoint,” adding that he doesn’t think the Sinclair sign should qualify under the new section of city code because it’s not unique.

“That type of sign is still made every day,” Lee had said at the May 29 planning commission meeting. “The shape is somewhat unique, but without the word ‘Sinclair,’ it doesn’t mean anything to anybody.”

The measure will come before the full city council for a final vote in the coming weeks. Councilman Pat Quinn was absent from the Wednesday meeting and did not vote.