Council Allows Balloons for Businesses; Tackles “Pump-Flicks” Next

Downtown businesses will now be allowed to festoon their shops with as many as 12 promotional balloons—no bigger than 18 inches in diameter—as a way to catch the eye of prospective customers. Traditionally, such balloon displays have been outlawed by the City of Santa Barbara’s strict sign ordinance, but over the opposition of city planners, the City Council voted to loosen this restriction. Still banned are inflatable figures.

Still unresolved is the city’s position on “pump-flicks”—outdoor video screens installed at the gas pumps of local gas stations. City staff—as have members of the Historic Landmarks Committee and the Architectural Board of Review—have strongly opposed these screens, which bombard gas customers with commercial announcements to the financial advantage of gas station owners. A majority of the council, however, appears intent on allowing such screens, in part because they reportedly can be used to broadcast emergency messages in times of fires, floods, or earthquakes.

The screens have been promoted by John Price, who owns several local stations. In the past week, City Hall has received 15 nearly identical e-mails blasting the screens—which have recently been installed in three city stations—as intrusive and annoying. The council will address the screen debate in the next month.

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