2017-02-23 / Business

Globe out, oak tree in on new-look auto mall sign

Face-lift long overdue, dealers say
By Becca Whitnall


A WORK IN PROGRESS—Heavy rains delayed work on a planned face-lift for the Thousand Oaks Auto Mall monument sign next to the 101 Freeway. Above is how the sign looked on Thursday; below is a rendering depicting how it will look when work is complete. 
KYLE JORREY/Acorn Newspapers A WORK IN PROGRESS—Heavy rains delayed work on a planned face-lift for the Thousand Oaks Auto Mall monument sign next to the 101 Freeway. Above is how the sign looked on Thursday; below is a rendering depicting how it will look when work is complete. KYLE JORREY/Acorn Newspapers A quirky landmark for a generation of residents—and at one point the center of a contentious debate—the Thousand Oaks Auto Mall sign is getting a fresh look.

The monument next to the 101 Freeway will keep its foundation but lose the globe and “World’s Largest” wording that sits atop the faded stucco and brick structure. An oak tree logo will take the globe’s place.

“It was just time,” said Ken Christ, general manager of Rusnak Auto Group and president of the Auto Mall Association. “It looked terrible, so we decided to pull our funds together to give it a face-lift.”

The new tree logo and paint color—popular off-white Swiss coffee, according to city records— were chosen to better fit in with the city and its namesake, Christ said.


Courtesy of City of Thousand Oaks Courtesy of City of Thousand Oaks The typeface and size of the sign’s letters will remain the same, but they will be what Senior Planner Steve Kearns referred to as LED “black/white” lettering.

“Right now, it’s reverse lit,” he said. “These letters are black during the day but appear white at night.”

The sign will still display time and temperature, but the current message board will be replaced with a more energy-efficient LED unit of the same size.

The changes have already been approved by the city’s planning department. Because they are not considered significant, they did not require a hearing and the permit was issued administratively, Kearns said.

Point of contention

If the dealerships had their way, they would be installing a new sign, not fixing up an old one.

In 2009, the Thousand Oaks City Council began to address a dearth of parking at the auto mall. The council formed an ad hoc committee to discuss general upgrades, including replacing the sign, which was built in the early 1990s and stands 30 feet wide by 20 feet tall.

The following years saw divisiveness in the community as sign size, display and cost were all vigorously debated.

Ultimately the auto mall received approval from the city to build a new 24-foot-tall sign with an 18-by-9-foot color LED display that would operate like a slide show, changing images every eight seconds. It was not clear sailing from there, however.

A holdout landowner together with the state’s dissolution of the city’s redevelopment agency and the funds that accompanied it caused delays, and the sign was never replaced.

The project remained in limbo until 2015, when a deal between the City of Thousand Oaks and the Auto Mall Association to add 330 parking spaces fell through. Because the sign’s approval was tied to the parking improvements, the dealers would have to return to the council in order to proceed. They opted not to.

Although they’d still like a new sign at some point, Christ said the dealers are excited about the new look, which will be completed by Sign Masters, the same Newbury Park company that designed the original sign.

“The sign was getting a little dilapidated and tired after about

25 years,” he said. “We’re happy to now have a sign representing both the auto mall and the city.”

From start to finish the revamp will take about a week, said Scott Bailey of Sign Masters. Work has been delayed due to rain but Bailey said he believes it will be done within the next two weeks.

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