The welcome sign on California City Boulevard near Proctor Boulevard shows signs of age and weather, including a half-sunbaked city seal and missing letters. Duane Vasquez of "I Love Cal City" has proposed raising money to replace two welcome signs at the entrance to the city.

CALIFORNIA CITY — Duane Vasquez and his son Donnie Vasquez presented an idea to the California City planning commission Tuesday as part of the family’s ongoing mission to improve the city under its “I Love Cal City” campaign.

They want to fix up two aging, weather-beaten welcome signs greeting people driving into town on California City Boulevard. 

“I Love Cal City’s” mission includes improving California City’s image, Vasquez said. Vasquez also owns Raven’s Nest Cafe on California City Boulevard.

“We’ve been discussing ways to improve California City and we found an easy project,” Vasquez said. “We can go out and raise the money and basically replace what’s there.”

Vasquez estimated it would cost about $2,000 to replace the seals on both signs. He added that by raising and completing the project with private funds, it would bypass the need for the city to conduct an open bidding process required of most local government projects.

“The idea Donnie and I had was to have a common backing and put all the letters down so we don’t lose them all,” Vasquez said. The process would include high-quality lamination.

Vasquez noted current problems with signs include individual letters that go missing. 

Another purpose for refurbishing the signs includes community pride.

“Part of this is to build some kind of community and have people take ownership of and being involved,” Vasquez said. “The more people that get involved, the more people begin to take ownership.”

Vasquez said he’s attempted to contact and partner with a nonprofit to secure the funding, since “I Love Cal City” doesn’t have a nonprofit status.

“People prefer to donate to a nonprofit ... but we’re still working on that,” Vasquez said. 

His goal was to have everything in place “before offroaders come because half come up this way and it (the sign) just isn’t very welcoming.”

Vasquez said that when the topic was discussed with the city, the topic of lighting came up. He added he would like to avoid that responsibility given its complexity.

However, he noted a few ideas for lighting, including a focused light to illuminate the sign at night by tapping into a nearby electrical conduit.

Planning Chair Jim Creighton noted that nearby streetlight power sources were high voltage and therefore incompatible with normal lighting sources. He recommended instead solar LED lighting similar to the “Welcome to Mojave” sign in nearby Mojave.

Vasquez said his only objection to solar lighting is that “solar panels are usually ugly.” Another downside was location: putting it behind the signs, he said, would effectively place the solar grid in the shade.

For the meantime, Vasquez said he would rather want to focus just on revamping the signs and the seal on them. Including lighting elements in the mix would likely drive up the price tag and complexity, he said.

“I would rather want to keep it simple,” Vasquez said. 

Creighton recommended the idea go before the city council, as final approval rests with it. Creighton also asked whether Vasquez had any concepts.

Vasquez said he would have something to present to the council when it came time.

“I asked the sign maker for something and he just gave me a bunch of pictures,” he said, adding that the same sign maker — Tehachapi-based Prime Signs —  did the Raven’s Nest sign.

Commissioner Carla Conry asked if the sign maker had experience with city seals. 

“I’m asking because I was wondering if this company uses UV-resistant laminating or ink,” Conry said. She noted that one of the signs was installed in 2010 and had to be replaced twice due to sun damage.

“It also has to be heat-resistant because otherwise it would melt away,” Conry said.

Creighton added that making any decals would require a very high resolution image file. He added that before it does go to council, he’d like the planning commission to view the “Welcome To” element.

Vasquez said the California City logo sample he had was provided by Public Works Director Jose Barragan, and likely had a higher resolution sample.

“We can do a mock-up and run it by the sign maker to see if it works,” Vasquez said. 

During public comment, developer DJ Twohig said he appreciated Vasquez’ energy on the project, but also proposed having an architect donate service to design something.

“[It would] be like Oxnard where something people could see, like a water tower, more like a monument so that it would be an attraction,” Twohig said. “If we had a sign that was more like a marquee, we could then do digital advertising for things like Tortoise Days or a golf tournament and folks could actually sponsor those if there was a digital sign affixed to a monument at the entrance to California City Boulevard and Highway 14.”

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