The City of Albuquerque, spurred by Mayor Marty Chavez, is considering a sign ordinance that’s so financially onerous and controversial that I’m surprised it was proposed at all.
In short, the ordinance would outlaw nearly all existing standalone signs and signs that are attached to buildings. This, of course, would include virtually all neon signs along Central Avenue, aka Route 66, including historic ones.
The Sign Defense Group, which opposes the ordinance, has pictures of current signs that would be outlawed. That includes the El Don Motel neon sign (above) and the historic Aztec Motel neon sign (below). Dozens of other neon signs along Central also would be affected.
Apparently Chavez became enamored of a similar ordinance used in Scottsdale, Ariz. However, the business community is against it, as shown in this Albuquerque Journal article. The Albuquerque Tribune is against it. And Route 66ers are definitely against it.
Here’s the proposed 80-page ordinance in an Acrobat file. Note that all the underlined sentences are the ones that are disputed or will change, and there are a lot of them.
I called Deborah Nason, public information officer for the city’s Environmental Planning Commission that has to approve the proposal before it advances to the City Council.
Nason recently told me that a Planning Commission decision on the ordinance has already been deferred from mid-September until Oct. 19, and she anticipates it could be deferred clear into January.
“It’s been very controversial,” she said.
I asked Nason whether the city is considering an exemption for Albuquerque’s famed Route 66 neon signs.
“I’m pretty sure (the signs) would be preserved,” she said.
Nason seemed uncertain whether the ordinance would advance at all because it’s so unpopular. “There’s still a long way to go until it passes,” she said.
Nason suggested that those who want Route 66 neon signs preserved to e-mail staff planner Russell Brito at email@example.com . He is the one who’s considering and adding amendments to the proposed ordinance.
So here’s what to do: E-mail Brito and politely ask that the city place an exemption for signs on the Route 66 corridor, including the pre-1937 alignments. Explain that neon signs on the Mother Road are a major attraction to tourists, and that the loss of such signs would provide less of an incentive to visit Albuquerque.
If enough roadies lobby for the preservation of Route 66 neon signs, the exemption probably will be included. That way, the signs on Central Avenue and other Route 66 alignments will be safeguarded.
And if the proposed sign ordinance fails simply because it’s too hot for the city to handle, that’ll be OK, too.