A freeway sign that has towered for 28 years above an Agoura Hills service station was taken down Monday, marking a milestone for many residents of this city who hope someday to eliminate all freeway signs from the landscape.
About a dozen city officials and community activists cheered as a crane removed the last of five letters on the 70-foot Shell sign at 5134 Kanan Road.
"This has been a 10-year battle for us, and this is the brightest spot," said Ronald Kapla, an Agoura Hills resident who heads an organization called Citizens Against Pole Signs.
The city outlawed freeway signs as eyesores 10 years ago and gave owners seven years to remove them. Voters twice overwhelmingly voted in referendums to uphold the ban. The Shell sign is the first of the signs to come down.
Many business owners have balked, saying they would lose business if the signs came down. Eleven--including a Denny's restaurant next to the Shell station--have sued the city to keep their signs.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled recently that the 11 businesses are entitled to the signs under a state law that allows businesses to have freeway signs to attract customers. The city has appealed.
Josephine Gomes, who leases the Kanan Road station from Shell Oil Products Co., worked out a deal in which she would take down the sign if the city put on the fast track her proposal for a convenience store and carwash at the site. She will also be allowed to keep a smaller, 35-foot freeway sign until the lawsuit by the 11 businesses is resolved.
Gomes said she hopes the carwash and convenience store will make up for any revenue lost when the sign comes down.
"But there is no way to be certain," she said. "We'll just have to wait and see."
In another small victory for freeway-sign opponents, one business owner involved in the suit, lumberyard owner Jeff Ruf, agreed to drop out in return for the city ensuring quick approval of a smaller, less conspicuous monument sign.