Show me a sign

What if you opened a store but couldn’t tell anyone?

That’s what happened to Julian Bass, owner of Cherry Bikes. Bass wanted to put up a sign on the building that houses his shop at Fifth and Cherry streets, but when he applied for a sign permit, he was told that a bike shop wasn’t an allowed use in that zoning district and his application was denied.

According to the city Planning Department, the entire block is zoned ML—light manufacturing/ industrial—except for Riley’s bar at Fifth and Ivy.

“Basically, he shouldn’t be there,” said Jay Hanson, associate planner with the city. Hanson said about Bass, “He was told months ago that retail business is not an allowed use in an ML district.”

Undeterred, Bass put a row of bikes on the sidewalk in front of the store, a common sight in front of some other bike shops in town. The city considered it a code violation, since the bikes infringed on the public right of way, and Bass was told to put an end to that.

Next, he put the bikes on the exterior wall of the building. This too, he was told, infringed on the public right of way.

“The building is built right up adjacent to the public right of way,” Hanson explained. “So anything that hangs off that wall is actually legally within the public right of way.”

The city treated the bikes on the wall as a sign, and the correct procedure to get a sign, Hanson said, would be to find out if the sign ordinance allowed it and to check that the sign didn’t create a safety hazard.

If Bass could have gotten the permits it would have been allowed. Bass “didn’t do any of those things,” Hanson said. “He just stuck [the bikes] up there without any review, permits or anything.”

The ML zoning allows for many different types of business, but not retail. The city municipal code lists 50 acceptable uses that don’t require any special permits and 21 uses that require a use permit. None of them include a retail shop. Hanson said that the city told Bass that if he were to manufacture bikes, “not assemble them, but build them and sell them as an accessory use,” he could do that. But he said Bass can’t just sell bikes and maintain a bike shop. “That is the bike shop you would find under retail uses, and that [falls] under a commercial district.”

The owner of the property, Kirk Bengston, was apparently ready to apply for rezoning, but Hanson said “it is more than a rezone, it is a General Plan amendment and a rezone, and it will cost about $4,000.” Hanson told Bengston that the city would “go ahead and look at this at staff level.” Hanson said the staff “recommendation might be to rezone the whole block,” but he added that he didn’t know who was going to pay for it.

Even if the property is rezoned to accommodate retail businesses, a whole new can of worms could open up. Hanson said he is not sure if the building meets the handicap requirements for [a] retail store. The owner would have to go through the building code and get the zoning, general plan, building, and occupancy right.

Meanwhile, Cherry Bikes and Julian Bass need a sign.