Local restaurant owner Phillip Chin wanted to make his new Willow Tree sign more visually pleasing and similar in style to a neighboring business sign.
He also wanted it to be more visible.
The 80-year-old entrepreneur said his restaurant, which he opened in 1978, could at one time be seen from the freeway and Dublin Boulevard, before other buildings grew up around it over the years.
Willow Tree, located at 6513 Regional St., sits where the street dead-ends at I-580.
“People were complaining that they couldn’t see the sign,” Chin explained. “No one can see my restaurant now – no one would even know about it.”
So he made the sign a little higher and a little nicer, Chin said.
“I think it looks very nice. Nobody has complained to me about it. My sign isn’t bothering anybody,” he said.
According to Around Dublin Blog, Dublin City Manager Joni Pattillo said the sign poses a “health and safety issue.”
Chin pointed out the sign is on his property and he has all the insurance required by law. Therefore, the liability would be his, not the city’s, if anyone got hurt.
Chin met with Dublin Planning Manager Jeff Baker twice to resolve the issue. Both times Baker said the sign is too big and needs to be taken down.
Yet, the sign is still smaller than the adjacent sign for Holiday Inn and Outback Steakhouse.
“I can’t understand it,” Chin said. “It’s in the same spot, only it’s a little bit higher. I put stucco on it to match the other sign, so that it looks good for my customers.”
He said Willow Tree’s renovated sign complies with the city’s size requirements. The colors are similar to Holiday Inn’s new sign next door.
“It’s not fair,” Chin said. “Who’s going to pay for it?”
Business is slow, he said. He only makes enough to pay his overhead.
“I think the city doesn’t understand how hard it is to keep restaurant doors open in this economy,” he said.
Apparently, a neighboring business filed an anonymous complaint against Chin’s new sign in December 2011. Dublin Senior Code Enforcement Officer Dean R. Baxley has called Chin several times and served him with violation notices.
“I told the city: Tell me who complained – not the person, just the business,” Chin said. “Then I will take the sign down.”
But, he said, the city won’t say.
Why would the city pick a fight with an octogenarian small business owner – a member of the community for over 30 years - in the first place?
Around Dublin Blog suggested that one incentive could be that the Willow Tree sits on a large piece of land adjacent to the West Dublin BART station in the city’s historic big box shopping district. If Chin is forced to relinquish ownership of the parcel, the city may have the opportunity to rezone the land to allow for residential development.
City Manager Pattillo could not be reached for comment.
Chin has lived in the same house in Livermore for the past 52 years. He and his wife raised four children, and now have seven grandchildren.
Although his family and friends have encouraged him to close the restaurant and take it easy, Chin said he really enjoys what he does.
“I like my restaurant, I come in every day to see people,” he said. “It’s my home.”