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VENTURA : Feud Over Sign Escalates Into Confrontation

A feud between a Ventura thrift shop and the city of Ventura over an advertising sign escalated Tuesday, with the shopkeeper accusing the city of selective enforcement of its sign ordinance.

Sandra Stone, who manages the Easter Seal Society Thrift Store on Chestnut Street downtown, charged that code enforcement officers have cited some shops for posting temporary signs but ignored others.

“If I was the only one putting a sign out to attract business, that would be one thing, but I’m being singled out,” Stone said.

Stone’s refusal to sign a citation Tuesday morning led to a confrontation between her mother and a Ventura policeman seeking Stone’s whereabouts. At one point, the officer grabbed both wrists of Virginia Peterson, 63, as he was questioning her, said her husband, Carl Peterson.

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“Anytime she’s restrained, she goes into a panic,” Carl Peterson said. Peterson said he took his wife, who has high blood pressure, to a medical clinic, where she was treated for acute anxiety and released.

Peterson said the couple plans to file a complaint against the officer today.

A police spokesman refused comment on the incident.

Stone said she believes the city is selectively enforcing its sign law against businesses operated by women.

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Chief Vern Hamilton of the Ventura Fire Department, which has supervised the city’s code enforcement program since July 1, denied any bias in the city’s enforcement.

“We respond to every complaint in the same fashion,” Hamilton said in response to Stone’s complaint. He added that selective enforcement “is an easy thing to charge, but not an easy thing to prove.”

Ventura City Planner Mitch Oshinsky said the city does not allow temporary signs without a permit, which Stone did not obtain.


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