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Feature Stories

Garcia Signs are Illegal

From Issue: Volume XXII - Number 7
4/4/2014


By Kirt Ramirez

Illegal signs have popped up throughout Long Beach for Robert Garcia.

Trespassing on private property to place a sign can be considered a misdemeanor.

Anyone commuting through the city can see countless “Garcia-for-mayor” political signs strapped high on poles, attached to chain link fences and commercial real estate signs on private properties.

The City of Long Beach has been strict on not allowing candidates to place signs on public property, but there is not much it can do regarding signs being placed on private properties – even when signs are placed without the property owner’s permission.

Had the Garcia signs been placed on public property, such as on sidewalk utility poles or park trees, then the city’s code enforcement division could take them down. But the city will not go onto business properties to remove the signs.

Garcia supporters have skirted the laws by placing signs in a “safe haven” on business properties. Thus the signs can stay up unless the property owner or someone else takes them down. The signs give Garcia unfair public exposure when other campaigns appear to be playing by the rules.

As one example, an Anaheim Street cursory bike ride from Ximeno to Atlantic Avenues revealed Garcia signs about every other block, if not every block.

Various fast-food workers on site and other business employees said they did not know who put the signs up.

Two Garcia signs were attached to the top of a Realty Land commercial real estate services sign, across from a Jack in the Box, which was also hit.

“I didn’t know that,” said property manager Brad Kim, whose phone number appears on his Realty Land sign. “We never give any permission.”

Kim said he lives in Los Angeles and goes to the Long Beach property about twice per month to check on things but the last time he was there a few weeks ago, the signs weren’t up yet.

“I’m going to go down there and take a look at it and call the campaign,” he said. “That is unacceptable.”

However, one manager at a Shell gas station, Bidayan, said that even though no one asked his permission to put up a Garcia sign, he didn’t mind the sign at the edge of the property high up on a pole. Asked how he would get the sign down later, he said he did not know.

Lei Ronca, code enforcement division officer for Long Beach, said the size of the signs in question are okay in terms of not violating the city’s municipal code.

“The city can take no action,” she said. “That’s between the property owner and the sign installer.”

The Beachcomber e-mailed Garcia for comment but he did not respond. Instead, campaign manager Devin Cotter spoke for him:

“We are opposed to signs getting placed on private property without permission or on public property for any reason. Our signs are posted by volunteers and sometimes there can be misunderstandings as to where they can go. What complicates matters is that an outside group has decided to express their support for our campaign by making their own signs and posting them throughout the city.”

Cotter added, “Unfortunately we are not allowed to coordinate with the outside group posting signs due to campaign laws.”

However, when Cotter was asked to clarify whether or not he was denouncing the outside group for doing the illegal activities, he responded, “I’m not denouncing anyone.”

Cotter continued, “If one of our official campaign signs is on your property and it shouldn’t be, let me know and we will remove it. The name of the campaign committee that paid for any of the signs in this election should be printed somewhere on the sign itself. If another campaign committee is placing signs on your property you can either take them down yourself or contact the committee that paid for the sign.”

The Beachcomber contacted the other top mayoral candidates for their reactions.

Bonnie Lowenthal said, “If they have his name on them, and they are illegally posted, he is benefiting from the law being broken and should support enforcement of the law. Either he supports equal application of the law or he doesn’t.”

Gerrie Schipske said, “Leadership requires taking responsibility, so voters should be greatly disappointed in Robert’s lack of leadership on this issue. He is benefiting from outside special interests pouring now near $100,000 into his campaign and for spending on things such as littering up all the businesses in the City. It is a form of tagging and he should take responsibility and get the signs removed.”

Damon Dunn said, “We are focused on walking door to door, listening to voters, and doing our best to earn their support. We have no comment about any other candidate’s campaign.”

Doug Otto declined to comment.

kirt@longbeachcomber.com