Article Last Updated: 12/15/2005 07:09 AM
Lawyer gets ultimatum on disputed sign
Marin Independent Journal
Tempers hit the boiling point this week as the San Anselmo Town Council
gave lawyer Ford Greene until Dec. 27 to bring his controversial "freedom"
sign into compliance with town code - or face court action.
Greene, who failed to win a seat on the
Town Council Nov. 8, said he is putting off vacation plans to deal with
"I'm not going to Mexico, I'm going to war!" Greene exclaimed
outside the Town Council chambers Tuesday.
The sign discussion heated up as the exchange of commentary became emotional.
At one point, Councilman Peter Breen said, "Let's stop all this insanity."
Greene said he had worked with town officials to reach a compromise and
was frustrated with the inability to carve out an agreement.
"I asked you what you wanted," Greene said. "I offered
to dismiss my federal lawsuit. It was you people who violated my rights.
I've tried to cooperate but I haven't gotten squat backÉ ."
On Wednesday, Greene said: "In their arrogance, blindness and vindictiveness,
not to mention stupidity, they've rejected itÉ . They want to make
me a scapegoat. É Let's go down to the mat and see whether one of
us walks away standing.
"I've had it."
Greene, Town Administrator Debbie Stutsman and attorney Hadden Roth met
three times in the past several weeks to reach a settlement about Greene's
sign on the western side of his Hub law offices at 711 Sir Francis Drake
Greene offered to reduce the size of his sign from about 72 square feet
to the size allowed by ordinance - 56 square feet - and indemnify the town
from any damages if the sign were to fall. He wanted to avoid paying permit
fees and asked for immediate administrative processing and reimbursement
of the $840 it cost him to file a previous variance application.
In a Nov. 23 letter, Stutsman said the town was in agreement in some
issues but was rejecting Greene's out-of-pocket expenses, which totaled
Besides dropping a lawsuit he filed in San Francisco federal court, the
town asked Greene to waive entitlement to any attorney fees. A deadline
of Dec. 7 was given to Greene. Stutsman said there has been no response.
Councilman Ian Roth said everyone in town must be held accountable to
meet regulations. "Everyone needs to play by the same rules,"
As it is written, the sign ordinance entitles any commercial business
on roads other than four lanes to one square foot of signage for each lineal
foot of street frontage. Greene's building is on four-lane Sir Francis Drake,
which allows him 1.5 square feet for every lineal foot of street frontage.
The primary face of Greene's building is a little more than 37 feet long,
which means his sign should be no more than about 56 square feet. His existing
72-square-foot sign is composed of three panels.
Greene sued the town in 2003, saying his free speech rights were violated
when police pulled down a political banner that supported a friend running
for Fairfax Town Council.
The town eventually passed an ordinance that said residents couldn't
have signs bigger than 6 square feet or use several small signs to make
a single larger sign. A judge ruled the town could limit the size of the
signs, but not the number.
In its earlier creation, Greene assembled 16, 6-square-foot panels in
which he used changing copy to make political statements, sometimes attacking
the Bush administration, but lately town bureaucrats.
In related action, the council approved the selection of 20 residents,
merchants and business owners to join the town's sign committee.