Fresno's Granite Park: Billboards, not ballfields, could make Fresno money

The Fresno BeeFebruary 6, 2014 

Fresno City Hall might try to turn a financial fiasco into an advertising gold mine.

The City Council on Thursday approved a code change that allows outdoor electronic advertising at the city-owned Convention Center.

It's another step in the effort to wring every penny out of a facility that needs about $8 million a year from City Hall to stay afloat.

But Council Member Lee Brand wants to take the idea a step further. The city is hurting for money, he says. The city has property all over the place. Businesses must attract customers.

Brand in a month or so plans to ask the council to allow electronic advertising on just about any piece of city-owned land. What's a likely spot for that "Eat At Joe's" sign?

"Granite Park," Brand said after the council meeting. "It's right there on Highway 168. I think you could generate a lot of money there."

The city has spent a lot of money there. The City Council about 10 years ago co-signed on a $5 million bank loan to the nonprofit developer of the Granite Park ballfields. The city had to pay off the loan when the developer ran into financial trouble.

City officials have struggled ever since to turn Granite Park into something other than a perpetual rebuke to failed leadership.

Signage is one of those issues that generates little interest for years at a time, then flares for no apparent reason. City Hall appears headed for one of those storms. In addition to Brand's sign plans, Council Member Sal Quintero has asked City Manager Bruce Rudd to review the policy on business signage.

Quintero at a recent meeting said convenience store owners in his southeast Fresno district are upset with what they view as a flood of unregulated signage among competitors.

In other action, the council:

-- Adopted design guidelines for the state High-Speed Rail project through Fresno.

-- Approved an agreement with Cornerstone Structural Engineering for $1.8 million for on-call design plan check review services connected to the High-Speed Rail project. There will be no harm to the general fund.

-- Accepted $25,000 from Pacific Gas & Electric tied to the company's 811 Dig-In Safety Awareness campaign. The money will buy materials and reimburse the city for administrative costs. The campaign's message to individuals and businesses: Call before digging. Utility lines might be buried underground.

-- Approved a resolution in support of the Leadership Fresno Class 30 Monument Sign proposal. Leadership Fresno plans to erect two signs at entrances to Fresno. The signs are to generate pride among Fresnans and encourage travelers to stop for a visit.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6272 or ghostetter@fresnobee.com. Read his City Beat blog at fresnobee.com/city-beat.

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