Several local residents spoke in defense of the paintings on the store building, at 200 N. Second St., which feature an agricultural scene and a cow and the “El Mexicano” food products brand name on the side of the building facing Second Street.
Commissioners voted 3-0 in favor of bringing the issue back to staff, with Commissioner Enrique “Birdie” Rodriguez absent and a vacancy left by the departure of former commission Chairman Patrick Dooley last spring still unfilled.
“I’ve taken the time to drive around it and look,” Commissioner David Applegate said. “It’s been a very drastic improvement. But by the same token those are advertisements, and we have codes regarding that in the city. We have definite standards. I’m inclined to say it exceeds the standards. I’m sorry.”
Code enforcers paid a visit to the store in late April after it had opened a month earlier, to measure the paintings and check to see if they were compliant.
City Planner Joel Andrews said in May that the business had never filed an application for the paintings and noted they were out of compliance with city code.
Patterson Food Center applied to the planning commission for approval in May after the paintings had already been established. The paintings could be considered murals as long as they don’t advertise the business.
The square footage of an advertisement cannot exceed the measured length of the side of the building, according to city code. For instance, a building with a 50-foot side cannot have a mural that is more than 50 square feet.
Associate Planner Teresa Rodriguez said the building allows for 92 square feet of signing on the side of the building. However, the paintings measure 296 square feet, and an additional 367 square feet of signage identifies the store.
Rodriguez told the commission that a letter was sent ahead of time during the process of business licensing, though she did not have a specific date.
Tony Ali, co-owner of Patterson Food Center, said he never received such a notice. If it was sent to the store directly, he may not have been able to receive it, as the store was closed for renovations for the first three months of 2012 and could not receive mail.
Several local residents spoke in favor of the paintings during the public comment period of the meeting.
Patterson resident Dr. Peter LaTorre, who lives in the neighborhood of the store, said he lived a block and a half from the store. The paintings helped the neighborhood, and the owners have done a great job cleaning up the store, he said.
“It looks so nice now on that corner,” he said. “(The murals) tell people that it is a grocery store.”
Zora Arredondo of Crows Landing said that other businesses advertise product, and this one should be no different.
“We’ve never had anything as stupid as this on an agenda,” she said. “It’s advertising yogurt.”
Patterson resident Sandra McDowell said she was happy about the paintings because they added to the neighborhood.
“I was absolutely flabbergasted with delight when they went up,” she said of the paintings. “They’re absolutely beautiful, and I absolutely support the look of Patterson Food Center. The neighbors all like it.”
Mary Gong, who owned and operated the store until 2001 and continues to own the building and lease it to Ali and his partners, said the murals were an advertisement that relates to the grocery store and she favored them.
Commissioners agreed that the paintings looked good, but said the problem was they violated city code because they were advertisements and because they were too big.
Commissioner K.D. Rookard agreed with Applegate, calling the painting an advertisement.
“I’m with Dave. This is wonderful work but it’s an advertisement. It’s a billboard,” she said. “I don’t think it enhances anything. It’s all are around the building. I wish they would have come to the commission before. We could’ve scaled it down before it was done.”
On the other hand, Vice Chairman Ron West said he wanted to see more businesses taking the initiative to beautify the appearance of the city, but he had a problem with soda bottles stacked up inside the windows of the store that are visible to the street.
“We need to encourage beautification efforts,” he said. “I could be happy with the murals if we could get rid of the windows with bottles of soda.”
West proposed adding a painting over the windows to cover the soda as a concession to taking down the murals. He also noted there was a difference between advertising a product within the business rather than simply advertising the store.
Later in the meeting, West proposed that staff sit down with Ali and the store’s co-owners to hash out ways to save the paintings while removing the products being advertised, which would help it comply better with city codes. By removing the advertising, the paintings would be legally considered a mural and not an advertisement.
Ali, who said he has never received compensation by manufacturers of the products featured in the paintings, said he could run into problems with cost.
“We’re simply advertising stuff already in the store,” he said. “I think we would spend a lot of money to take the products out (of the paintings).”
• News Reporter Nick Rappley can be reached at 892-6187, ext. 31 or firstname.lastname@example.org