Santa Ana Will Approve a New Subway–As Long as it Doesn't Use Human Sign-Wavers

I wrote an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times three years ago about SanTana's plans back then to criminally prosecute those businesses that pay people to wave signs directing the public to them. Those plans went nowhere, namely because courts across the land have deemed such living ads as free speech.

Following the law has never mattered to SanTana city officials, so they are now trying to implement their will by legislating on a new-restaurant by new-restaurant case, as is the case with a new Subway proposed for the most-Mexican ciudad in America.


This afternoon, the SanTana Planning Commission will decide whether to issue a conditional use permit for a Subway proposed near the intersection of First Street and Harbor Boulevard. City staff has recommended that the commission approve the permit “as conditioned,” according to today's agenda report.

The condition? That the proposed Subway not employ any human signs.

In a report prepared for the hearing, SanTana Principal Planner Vince Fregoso goes on a nearly one-page rant against said signs, specifically calling out Subway as a principal violator of this supposed “visual blight.” “While this type of signage is in no way employed only by Subway sandwich shops, it has become a standard practice of some Subway franchises to use 'human signs,'” Fregoso wrote. “Therefore, a condition of approval has been added which prohibits the use of such signs.”

Fregoso admits that SanTana's municipal code doesn't explicitly ban such signs, yet strains to make the case. “While the sign ordinance does not specifically call out 'human signs' as a prohibited sign type,” he writes, “it is staff's interpretation that these signs would fall under the category of portable advertising” and thus illegal.

Oh, such priorities for this city! Funny thing? Just this past weekend, I went to Mother's Market for a boysenberry smoothie and saw two happy sign-wavers pointing me toward the store. But Mother's, of course, is a favored child of city officials, the neighborhood grocery store of SanTana Mayor-for-Life Don Papi Pulido. Mother's and all businesses in the city should hire whatever sign wavers they want, but funny how the city will legislate against some rather than all…

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