COSTA MESA : Promotional Uses of Big Balloons Banned

First, the city outlawed little balloons. Now big balloons are banned too.

The City Council Monday voted to prohibit use of balloons bigger than 24 inches in diameter for advertising and promotions unless the merchant requests special permission to display them.

Getting rid of a giant yellow T-shirt-shaped balloon that for years had floated over T-Shirt Wholesale Mart V near 17th Street and Newport Boulevard was one of the goals of residents who had lobbied for the balloon ordinance.

Heather Somers, president of the Eastside Homeowners Assn., said she found the giant T-shirt "offensive."

"It is a sign to people leaving Newport Beach that they have arrived in Costa Mesa," she said.

In a previous meeting, the council had banned balloons smaller than 24 inches in diameter without special permission, with the majority of members supporting the premise that clusters of them, used for promotions, look junky.

At Monday's session, however, the council approved an ordinance that gives real estate agents the right to put up open-house signs on public thoroughfares.

That action outraged Councilwoman Sandra L. Genis.

"I can't believe we banned balloons on private property but said they can put their signs on public property," she said. "So now anyone can go out and attach a sign to a fireplug and it's fine, but nobody can put balloons on their own property."

Joe Sou, manager of the discount T-shirt store, said Wednesday he was shocked to hear of the council's balloon policy.

"I think it is getting out of control," said Sou, adding that he has used balloons to attract customers who otherwise might not see the store, which is on a side street.

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