Development Agency Cracks the Whip to Get Wells Fargo to Use Its Stagecoach

Who just held up the Wells Fargo stagecoach? Wells Fargo.

The Community Redevelopment Agency and a private developer want Wells Fargo Bank to put up some version of its 120-year-old stagecoach symbol on Crocker Center's 54-story north tower in downtown Los Angeles when the bank moves its Southern California headquarters there Nov. 1. But Wells Fargo no longer uses the simple stagecoach silhouette parked atop its current offices in Wells Fargo Plaza and says its new, more "dynamic" logo won't fit.

"They looked at the possibility of having a stagecoach and horses and a person cracking a whip, and it all turned to mud," said Jeffrey Skorneck, a senior city planner for the CRA.

Wells Fargo, which became a part owner of Crocker Center 16 months ago when it bought Crocker National Bank, wants its name in gold letters on a black rectangle. The San Francisco-based bank has similar signs at branch offices up and down the state and would like to do the same at 333 S. Grand Ave. But Wells Fargo is reluctant to hold up erecting a skyline sign through a long shoot-out with the CRA.

"I don't know that we have an appetite to pursue it for another two years," said Steve Ronzone, Wells Fargo's senior vice president for real property management.

The source of the ruckus is the CRA's skyline policy. Drafted in January, 1986, the rules encourage skyscraper owners to use distinctive architecture and logos, rather than their names, to advertise their addresses. The purpose of the rules is to prevent the erection of new signs like the neon-blue Union Bank label.

The CRA has just given IBM permission to place its initials on three sides of Crocker Center's 45-story south tower. IBM won approval after protracted negotiations because its initials are its logo, Skorneck said.

Wells Fargo's acquisition of Crocker raises special concern because it will cost the CRA two model logos, Skorneck said. The current Crocker logo is coated with gold leaf, while the old stagecoach at the Wells Fargo Plaza on 444 S. Flower St. is of gray metal.

"We're kind of sorry to see these good symbols go," he said.

Ronzone said it was unlikely that either logo could be salvaged.

No decision has been made on what to call Wells Fargo Plaza now that it is losing its namesake, said Richard Ginise, a regional property manager for Lehndorff Management of California, which runs the building. Virtually all of Wells Fargo's office space there has been subleased to other tenants, a bank spokeswoman said.

Wells Fargo is moving 1,500 employees into the top 12 floors of the Crocker Center's north tower and plans to change its name to Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 1 regardless of whether new signs have been installed at the top of the building, Ronzone said. All other signs in and around the building will feature the bank's name.

"Our target date is Nov. 1, with or without the sign," he said.

Siding with the CRA in advocating a stagecoach logo is Los Angeles-based Maguire Thomas Partners, a private developer that is a co-owner of Crocker Center, Ronzone added.

A spokeswoman for the developer denied there was a disagreement. "As far as I know, there is no dispute," Rose Harrold said.

Meanwhile, Wells Fargo President Paul Hazen himself is about to take the bank's reins in the skyline dispute, meeting Monday with senior managers in an effort to harness them to a single plan for dealing with the CRA.

A compromise may be in order. Perhaps a stagecoach, one horse, no driver and the word BANK ?

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