City Council

Daily Post on the Los Altos City Council Election 2012 Signage Spat

Written by lalahpolitico

Signs at the Downtown Los Altos Pharmacy on Oct. 24, now only viewable from the parking lot

Chatter about  the Los Altos City Council election 2012 signage spat is reverberating around town. Even as lawn signs have been disappearing around town – because of the City’s “lawn sign police” and perhaps also because vandals, Editor Dave Price over at the Daily Post has given Lalahpolitico permission to republish their breaking Oct. 17 article about Mayor Val Carpenter’s letter to merchant Bart Nelson, requesting Safeway to order Bart to remove the election signs in his pharmacy window. At the time she wrote the letter, Ms. Carpenter was apparently unaware that the sale of Bart’s pharmacy to Safeway does not close till December. So Safeway has no authority over the operations of the store till then.

In the meantime, local blogger, Robin Chapman has blogged about it here.  And in the Oct.23 edition, the Los Altos Town Crier is covering the story.

Just so you know, us citizens are not supposed to install signs in the public right of way around our lots. That might be as much as 10 feet. If we do so, and some one – for example one of the candidates – complains about a specific address(es), then the City’s sign “police” can go to that address and remove them or perhaps just leave a note. The signs are taken to the corporation yard where candidates can pick them up and have them reinstalled outside of the public right of way. Hearsay is that Jeannie Bruins and Anabel Pelham had been hearing lots of complaints about their supporters incorrectly installing signs…that is until the Daily Post broke this Val Carpenter – Safeway letter story. Then the complaints stopped.

And Lalahpolitico thinks the City sign police are a double edged sword for any candidate who is/was complaining.  Whole swaths of Jon Baer signs around his neighborhood – all which Lalahpolitico saw were well inside the city right of way – are gone. Vamoose. So Lalahpolitico is happy to report the City staff are apparently doing their jobs per protocol, unbaised. Thanks, guys.

LALAHPOLITICO COMMENT: Why can’t we have a lawn sign enforcement holiday for the month before an election? What is the harm done by those little signs being in the city strip temporarily ? Nothing. Other than our suppression of free speech. And wasting city staff time. Those candidates who have walked the walk around town, and talked folks into hosting signs, shouldn’t they be rewarded by having their signs stand there…even if the the city of has right of way. Hey, can’t we amend the sign law? Then the only problem is the vandals…


When the story originally broke, the election signs were in the pharmacy window on 2nd Street.

Published Wednesday October 17, 2012, Pages  1 and 26

Daily Post – Mayor accused  over signs

Los Altos merchant claims official tried to have signs removed

BY KRISTEN PETERS Daily Post Staff Writer

A downtown Los Altos pharmacy owner said yesterday  that Mayor ValCarpenter tried to force him to take down signs expressing support for City Council candidates she opposes – a move that  he called “totally inappropriate.”

According to Bart Nelson, who owns Los Altos Pharmacy at 255 Second St., Mayor Carpenter  sent an email to executives  at Safeway -.which will assume ownership of Nelson·s pharmacy in December – asking them to tell Nelson to remove the two campaign signs displayed on the window of his storefront due to Safeway’s corporate policy not to display any campaign signs.

Signs from both former  planning commissioner Jeannie Bruins and downtown  developer Jerry Sorensen are posted in Nelson’s store window.

Carpenter  is supporting  Planning and Transportation Commissioner Jon Baer, former League of Women Voters president  Jan Pepper and incumbent Megan Satterlee. Three seats are available  on the five-member council in the Nov. 6 election.

“It’s totally inappropriate,” Nelson said of Carpenter’s Oct. 8 email. “Especially  for the mayor. Why is the mayor of our town getting involved in which candidate signs are posted?”

Today the Bart Nelson’s 2nd Street windows display the children’s Halloween murals, with the signs peaking out …barely…if the light is just right

Mayor cites  fairness

Carpenter  considered the email nothing  more than a simple question.

“(Nelson’s) characterization is wrong,” Carpenter  said.

“I just want  this election to be fair and it’s unfortunate, but most Los Altos City Council elections  get nasty;·she added. “And it’s usually because of supporters.”

In the email to realestate manager William  Carrozzella  and property development director Deborah Karbo, Carpenter writes:

“My understanding from my own campaigns for Los Altos City Council is that  Safeway corporate policy is not to allow any campaign signs on your properties. If that  is still the case, I’d appreciate it if you would so inform Bart and Kent Nelson of Los Altos Pharmacy and direct them, to remove the signs ASAP. If that  is not the case, I’d appreciate your displaying campaign signs on your Safeway property for incumbent Megan Satterlee as well as Planning and Transportation Commissioner Jon Baer, both of whom voted in favor of your new store in downtown Los Altos.”

Nelson accused Carpenter  of using her position  as mayor to “intimidate supporters of other  candidates;·and wrote  an email to the three candidates  supported  by the mayor, urging them to take action.

“This action  by Mayor Carpenter, using her public office to benefit your campaigns and intimidate supporters of other candidates is highly inappropriate and I call on you to declare whether or not you condemn the methods and tactics  mayor Carpenter  employed and if you do condemn them, to immediately and publicly repudiate the support you derive  from her,” Nelson wrote  on Monday.


Candidates react

Sorensen, one of the candidates whose materials were displayed on Nelson’s window, agreed.

“Mayor Carpenter has managed to outdo herself by using her position to attempt to intimidate local property owners…;·Sorensen said. “As an intended target of Mayor Carpenter’s attempted intimidation of Safeway and Los Altos Pharmacy, I can assure you I would not tolerate such tactics from any campaign supporter.”

However, Satterlee said that Carpenter did not abuse her power and considered the email simply “an inquiry about corporate policy.”

Carpenter is supporting Pepper, but Pepper distanced herself from the mayor in an email she sent to Nelson.

Pepper said she has not sought the endorsements of anyone on council or anyone who may be coming to council in the future, such as developers. As for Carpenter’s email to Nelson, Pepper • said, “I do not condone such actions by an elected official in this campaign or in the civic affairs of Los Altos.”

About the author


Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past several years.