America the Messy Yard Police State

City officials say fliers are causing blight, damage

  Don't these government tyrants have any real criminals to hunt down besides messy yard criminals.


Phoenix-area communities, volunteers fight unwanted garage-sale signs

City officials say fliers are causing blight, damage

by Edythe Jensen - Jan. 29, 2011 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic

It happens every weekend across the Valley: Bargain hunters follow handmade signs to suburban garage sales, where residents spread their stuff in driveways to raise cash and reduce clutter.

But roadway placards on public property are illegal in most cities and their growing proliferation is causing blight and damage, officials say.

The bans are rarely enforced, and sellers who neglect to pick up their signs when sales end leave them to litter their communities. Duct tape damages or blights traffic-light poles, forcing cities to spend money and hours cleaning and repainting. Signs on the ground blow into landscaping or traffic.

City officials from Gilbert to Glendale estimate that as many as half of the hundreds of weekend garage-sale signs are not removed by Monday, and it's nearly impossible to find the culprits when sales are over.

In Gilbert, sale hosts routinely ignore inscribed warnings on the town's traffic-signal poles that say attaching signs to them is illegal. They tape right over the warning, said Steve Wallace, code-compliance inspector. "It seemed like a good idea, but people ignore them."

Cleaning off the old signs and tape buildup requires hours of work by city crews and harsh chemicals, said Ken Lowery, Gilbert traffic-engineering technician. Duct tape is difficult to remove and often takes the pole's paint with it. The only chemical that can easily do the job is so potent that it "eats through rubber gloves," Lowery said.

Chandler code-enforcement manager Rick Brzuchalski said blight from old garage-sale signs is getting worse and his small staff doesn't have time to patrol subdivision streets. He has put out a plea for neighborhoods to step in and remove them.

Other cities organized volunteers to help.

Glendale trains a handful of dedicated volunteers to drive city vehicles and pick up garage-sale and other illegal signs for four hours on Monday and Tuesday mornings, said Sam McAllen, code-compliance director.

David Gress, 54, has given two years of Tuesday mornings to do this, even though he lives in Phoenix near the Glendale line.

"I don't like seeing all those signs plastered everywhere," he said.

The cleanup has become such a habit that when he's "off duty," he said he frequently stops his truck to grab garage-sale signs.

Gress rattles off the challenges to removing those attached to poles: "There's packaging tape, duct tape, masking tape, red masonry tape . . . some people use zip ties and wire, which is why we carry side snippers."

The most difficult - and dangerous - to retrieve are those along busy streets in center medians. Gress and other Glendale volunteers wear safety vests and drive vehicles with flashing lights.

Gilbert doesn't do volunteer sign cleanups because of the safety issues and worries about confrontations with sign owners, Wallace said.

Phoenix also uses volunteers for quarterly sign "sweeps" but is known for tough enforcement and citations issued by police that carry $250 fines.

"If a sign is a traffic hazard, covers a stop sign or is in a place where drivers can't see around it to make turns," that brings a citation if police can determine who put it there, said Sgt. Jeff Brandenberger.

That can be difficult to prove. "A lot of people are getting smart and don't put their address on them; they're just an arrow with 'garage sale,' " he said.

Mesa volunteer Grady VanNoy, 47, organizes monthly sign cleanups and maps routes for other volunteers so all areas are covered.

"I've lived in Mesa all my life, seen it go from a really nice place to live to kind of a dump," he said.

City development official Tammy Albright said VanNoy and about 40 other volunteers are so passionate about clearing the city of illegal signs that what began as quarterly cleanups has turned into monthly events.

"They really keep those small signs under control," she said.

Aggressive confiscation keeps post-weekend garage-sale sign litter under control in Tempe, said Jeff Tamulevich, code-enforcement administrator. City workers remove illegal signs daily, including weekends, when sales are popular, he said. Those that avoid confiscation on Saturday and Sunday are usually retrieved by sale hosts before Monday morning, he said. "Because they know, come Monday, we will pick them up. I think people are having more garage sales in this economy and they reuse the signs."


America the Messy Yard Police State