Sign of the Times

If you can't find the massive Civic Center Plaza—a cluster of city, county, state and federal buildings in downtown Santa Ana — would you be helped by a sign posted at the location you can't find?

This is not a trick question. It is, however, a costly one for local taxpayers. Orange County bureaucrats want to replace dozens of existing plaza signs with expensive new ones so “visitors will know they have arrived.”

While you're pondering that circular logic, consider this: The county hired a sign company to help them decide if they should buy new signs. Guess what? We're buying new signs!

In fairness, the Plaza spans three wide blocks, houses architecturally clashing structures and doesn't provide enough parking spaces for the thousands of people who flood the area during daylight. First-time visitors who didn't consult a Google map before their trip might start to feel like lab rats caught in a maze.

But will it really help lost drivers if we update the current black-and-white directory maps located throughout the plaza with color-coded ones?

Are people so clueless they need new signs built over pedestrian walkways which confirm that walkways are walkways with—wait for it—walking stick-figure signs?

Will new “Public Parking” signs assist anymore than the old “Public Parking” signs?

How about new sign colors Knightsbridge Architectural Products, Inc., the one-year-old sign company involved in the project, has determined that orange, blue, ivory, dark gray, white, fawn and shadow blue will assist visitors too.

Fawn? According to Wikipedia, “fawn is a light yellowish brown that is usually used in reference to the coat of a [Chihuahua or Labrador Retriever].”

On Jan. 30, Knightsbridge, owned by Lynn A. Perry and James R. Winegarden of Irvine, gave county staff their “solutions” to the lost plaza visitor issue, including, “replace existing gateway monument signs with new and improved gateway signs.” They also suggested adding “a series of colorful permanent medallions or changeable banners,” creating “new building number/addresses” for some of the offices and numbering the various parking structures 1, 2, 3 and 4. The five county supervisors and a planning subcommittee have okayed the plan.

The estimated cost of these alterations to taxpayers? More than $500,000, which might explain why county CEO Tom Mauk buried the project from public inspection by revealing it in a last-minute supplemental agenda item on the board of supervisors' consent calendar earlier this year. That move ensured there would be little or no public debate about the merits of the spending. Construction hasn't yet begun, but in late August county officials solicited bids from construction companies.

Mauk and other county staff did not respond to requests for comment on the project.

On Oct. 17, a young couple stood in the Civic Center Plaza lost. They stared at a current black-and-white map directory and argued. They were trying to find the county business records building. Would it help if that map was color-coded? “No,” the woman said. “My husband has never been able to read any maps. He looked at the map right by the building we want to go to and took us in the wrong direction.”



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