Tucson Progressive

Pamela Powers, a progressive voice for Arizona

7-0: Mayor and Council sell out to sign industry on scenic route vote

Larger commercial signage will now be allowed along Tucson's scenic routes. (Photo Credit: Pamela Powers)

After hearing several Tucsonans– including former City Councilman Brent Davis– speak in favor of keeping the current Scenic Corridor Sign Code or fixing just the problem area along Houghton Road, Tucson’s Mayor and Council voted in solidarity to allow larger signs on all scenic corridors in Tucson.

Three plans were considered: Plan A which was drawn up by sign industry lobbyists; Plan B which was drawn up by city staff; and Plan C, a compromise plan that gives business larger signs but not as big as they had hoped for. A fourth plan– dubbed the community plan– was proposed by signage watchdogs Mark Mayer and Kathleen McLaughlin, who sits on the Citizens Sign Code Committee. Although the McLaughlin-Mayer plan was submitted to the Mayor and Council and some residents spoke in favor of it, it was not distributed online with other documentation, and it was not seriously considered at the meeting.

Davis, who had been on the City Council when the initial sign code was developed, spoke eloquently about the vision they had for Tucson’s Scenic Corridors, “It [the Scenic Corridor Sign Code] has worked for almost 30 years. We had a vision to preserve the city’s natural beauty. All City Council members before you– regardless of Democrat, Republican, Independent, whatever– have supported it.” He and others urged the Council to think of their legacy on this issue.

If you increase the size now, you will never be able to go back because the larger signs will be grandfathered, he warned. Noticeably proud of the vision and the work that was done on the sign code in the 1980s, Davis said those who have lived in Tucson for a while will agree that streetscapes have changed dramatically since the code was adopted.

In the end, it didn’t matter that there were fewer large sign supporters than Scenic Corridor supporters, the Mayor and Council voted for the compromise Plan C and talked about revisiting the issue in a year. Another issue that came up in the public comment and was mentioned by Councilwoman Karin Ulich was review of the make-up of the Citizens’ Sign Code Committee; there were several charges that the committee– which originally proposed the most lenient signs for the Scenic Corridors– is dominated by people who would benefit from more and larger signs (ie, developers, sign makers).

Personally, I think the Mayor and Council threw the baby out with the bathwater. Changing the designation of South Houghton Road, which will soon be widened, to a Gateway Corridor– thus allowing different signage– and protecting the other scenic routes would have been a better course of action– even though it would have taken longer.

12 comments on “7-0: Mayor and Council sell out to sign industry on scenic route vote

  1. Pingback: 7-0: Mayor and Council sell out to sign industry on scenic route vote – Tucson Citizen | The Write Article

  2. Joel
    December 15, 2010

    WOW! Tha city clowncil actially made a good business decision!!! Maybe this is a step in the right direction towards giving life to this dying city…


  3. Three Sonorans
    December 15, 2010

    I remember before the new I-10/I-19 interchange you would be heading north on I-19 and hitting the junction and you would start going up and get this nice view of the mountains… then a second later the view of the city skyline and the mountains gets blocked with a big billboard right as I-19 turns into I-10…
    Currently there’s a situation like this going east on Tanque Verde right past Wrightstown… beautiful mountains and a big billboard.
    Clear Channel vs Clear scenic view…


    • Hugh Holub
      December 15, 2010

      Billboards should be required to put a picture of what they were blocking on them…like the one you see as you go north on Wilmot when it turns into Tanque Verde….
      and hold on…you ain’t seen nothing yet….there are giant tv screen type billboards on I-10  going into Phoenix now…soon to be in Tucson.


    • Dizzle T
      December 15, 2010

      I think a nice angle grinder on the billboards is in order…


  4. Joel
    December 15, 2010

    BTW- Houghton should be the start of a loop freeway around the city…


  5. recovering progressive
    December 15, 2010

    Correct, this is all about the powerful lobby of the SIGN INDUSTRY.  The sign industry has been rotting our democracy (even  though we live in a Republic) fo years. The powerful sign industry practically runs this city and the nation.

    LOL! Liberalism is a mental disorder.


  6. Ernie McCray
    December 15, 2010

    Is anything sacred? What do Arizonans want? There’s a wish for Latinos to just pack up and go. There’s a wish for ethnic studies books to be burned. Now, there’s a wish to mar some of the most beautiful scenery in the world? That’s going to boost the economy? I don’t know of a worse business man than me but I don’t see somebody wanting to eat at Jim’s Cafe after his sign blocks a cluster of majestic Sahuaros leading up to a mountain pass that some driver wanted to see.


    • Pamela Powers
      December 15, 2010

      I agree. There were a few struggling businessmen there last night. The sign lobby has convinced them that somehow a larger sign is the solution to all of their problems. As more than one speaker pointed out, there are lots of reasons why businesses go under– particularly during a recession– so thinking a big sign will save your business is short-sighted. Also, more than one speaker pointed out that these businesses knew they were locating within the Scenic Corridor Zone, which automatically has stricter sign codes. I say to those businesses, “You knew you would face stricter sign code rules when you located your business in in a scenic area, so quit-ur-bitchin’.”


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The Tucson Progressive: Pamela J. Powers

I stand on the side of Love. I believe in kindness to all creatures on Earth and the inherent self-worth of all individuals–not just people who agree with me or look like me.

Widespread economic and social injustice prompted me to become a candidate for the Arizona House, representing Legislative District 9 in the 2016 election.

My platform focused on economic reforms to grow Arizona’s economy, establish a state-based public bank, fix our infrastructure, fully fund public education, grow local small businesses and community banks, and put people back to work at good-paying jobs.

In the Arizona House, I was a strong voice for fiscal responsibility a moratorium on corporate tax breaks until the schools were fully funded, increased cash assistance to the poor, expansion of maternal healthcare benefits, equal rights, choice, unions, education at all levels and protecting our water supply.

After three terms, I retired from the Arizona Legislature in January 2023 but will continue to blog and produce my podcast “A View from the Left Side.”

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