That advertising balloon flying over The Lot movie theater since at least early June is apparently flying in the face of San Diego City Municipal Code.
The Light has received two reader complaints about the blue globe — which is about 5 feet wide, reads “THE LOT” in white letters and hovers about 50 feet off the ground at 7611 Fay Ave.
“Putting aside whether or not I like the balloon,” said La Jolla resident Kevin Knight, “I think there’s a bigger issue, which is that if we just let people go around doing all kinds of things they fancy that are in code violation, then it’s a slippery slope and it gets worse.
“You allow one balloon and, sooner or later, you’re going to have 50.”
City Code states that flying a balloon over a business is allowed for a maximum of 10 business days in a one-month period, for a total of 20 calendar days per year. (Temporary inflatable signs are covered in the Code section 142.1255.)
Therefore, The Lot appears to be in violation.
The marketing director for The Lot acknowledged receiving an email requesting an interview. She then asked if she could call back and did not by deadline.
The owner of a neighboring business, who asked not to be identified, reached out to Councilmember Barbara Bry’s representative Mauricio Medina. Medina then forwarded the Light the reply he received from the City’s Communications Department, which stated that the Code Enforcement Division (CED) “responds swiftly to address serious private property violations.” These include things “that have the highest potential result in significant harm to the community,” such as leaking sewage, dangerous and unstable structures and uninhabitable living conditions.
All other cases, the communication stated, “are directed to Alternative Compliance, which helps to produce voluntary compliance at the neighborhood level.”
The only remedy for complaints directed to this department is one letter, sent to the alleged violator and describing the issue and what needs to be corrected, and another letter, sent to the complainant, confirming that the first letter was sent. After these letters are sent, all cases are automatically closed and any further requests are referred to mediation through the National Conflict Resolution Center.
“So, basically, they’re not going to do anything unless somebody says it’s dangerous,” Knight told the Light after the communication was read to him. “Great.”
At this point, Knight paused, recalled the windy period La Jolla had in July and said: “The balloon was bouncing around down toward the street, which I think is potentially distracting to drivers and therefore dangerous.”
Making matters more frustrating, the website that Medina directed the business owner to (www.sandiego.gov/ced/report/investigation) accepts complaints only against residences, not businesses.
“I had to write in the business name,” the business owner said. And when he reported calling, just to check whether there wasn’t another website dedicated to business complaints, he claims that a City employee told him: “We just don’t enforce business code compliance.”
Medina reported speaking to a senior zoning investigator with CED, who told him that the case was assigned to an investigator and the letter to The Lot is on the way.
As the Light went to press, the balloon was still aloft.