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Sign on El Cajon Blvd. Irks Some Merchants

Times Staff Writer

Several El Cajon Boulevard businessmen are protesting that a giant community sign, recently built and displayed at a cost of about $170,000, fails to represent their interests.

It’s not that they want the sign taken down, but they feel it represents an unsatisfactory compromise by the city after four years of consultations with community groups over the design.

The 60-foot sign, paid for with federal Community Development Block Grant funds, was officially dedicated last Saturday during an all-day affair of antique car displays, balloons and free popcorn, orchestrated by Brent Clingman, vice president of the El Cajon Boulevard Gateway Business Improvement Assn. District.

But Clingman said at a press conference Thursday that he did not like the sign.

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“I’m opposed to the fact that it’s one-sided,” he said. Six-foot-high letters spelling out “The Boulevard” face away from the boulevard and toward Washington Street.

In the Wrong Place

Another businessman, Richard Woolley, whose wife Jo Ellen, owns property at 4128 El Cajon Blvd., said the sign is in the wrong place.

Woolley, who took part in a design study of the area’s revitalization, said a survey by the El Cajon Boulevard Business Assn. showed that the majority of businesses in the area preferred a sign that said “El Cajon Boulevard,” and a more visible location a few blocks east.

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Ray Gomez, owner of Ref’s T-shirts and Toys at 4318 El Cajon Blvd., objected to the closure of a left-hand turn lane at Georgia Street that was necessary in order to put the sign up.

A city official said the survey Woolley referred to was conducted after construction drawings for the current design were already improved and that adding the full name of the boulevard to the sign was structurally impossible.

“It’s not everything we wanted, but it was the best we could get considering construction and financial constraints,” said Ralph Olivier, president of the El Cajon Boulevard Gateway Business Improvement Assn., which is chartered by the city.

‘Cosmetic Quick Fix’

San Diego City Council candidate John Hartley, who is president of the voluntary El Cajon Boulevard Business Assn., said the boulevard is still plagued by prostitution and called the sign a “cosmetic quick fix.”

Councilwoman Gloria McColl represents the Gateway area of El Cajon Boulevard, and some observers said Hartley’s criticism was part of a political salvo aimed at her.

McColl, who secured the block-grant funds for the project, responded: “I didn’t decide how they wanted to spend their money. I just provided the money. It was his own organization that chose a sign.”

Doris Cooper, co-owner of A San Diegos Own Florist, said birds might make nests in the free-standing letters. But, although her customers are divided in their opinion of the sign, Cooper says it is attractive.

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Trina Soco, whose sister owns Rice Paddy restaurant, said she believes the sign will lure more business for local merchants.


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