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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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No Frosty in Pleasanton

Uploaded: Dec 4, 2014
Bah, Humbug in Pleasanton hit the media this week.
Johnny Moore, who has sold Christmas trees at the Alameda County Fairgrounds for years, was notified by a city code enforcement staffer on Tuesday that the 25-foot inflatable Frosty balloon could not be used at his new site near McDonald's at the corner of Stanley Boulevard and Bernal/Valley avenues.
He could be assessed an escalating fine if he did not remove it. With the storm hitting Tuesday and Wednesday, he took it down, but reached out to the media getting air time from KPIX, KSFO as well as a story on the SFGate web site.
City Manager Nelson (AKA Mr. Scrooge in this role) Fialho wrote that reaching out to the media was a "brilliant marketing move on Mr. Moore's part."
Moore ran into problems with the city because, when his lot was on the fairgrounds, it was under county jurisdiction. The city ordinance did not apply on county land.
When he moved off the fairgrounds to a city within Pleasanton, the city's ordinances took over. When Moore was given approval for the temporary tree lot, it included specific provisions included a standard prohibition on inflatables—a law that Fialho wrote has been in place for decades.
On the city's letter to Moore granting him the permit to operate, item No. 5 states, "No hot/cold air type balloons or figures shall be utilized on the site."
In the city's view, it is clear. Moore did not take it easily and contacted the media.
"Of course, this has resulted in negative blogging and tweeting, mostly about the City's bah-hum-bug attitude. Makes for great P.R. for Mr. Moore who, candidly, is in the business of selling trees. A brilliant marketing effort on his part," Fialho wrote.
"Regardless, we are simply adhering to our municipal code and his permit to operate the tree farm. We plan to enforce this provision since all other operators are required to adhere to the same standard in Pleasanton (and have so for years), including other tree farms, downtown shops, dealerships, and the mall. Providing an exception, while convenient for everyone, creates a slippery slope for other situations. I would prefer not to put City staff in that position for obvious reasons."
Despite the media attention, Fialho wrote that the city had received fewer than five emails and phone calls on the issue and callers, once given the background, they understood the city's position.
"I like to think Pleasanton residents are smart and savvy about these things. They get equity and fairness and uniform application of the law. Mr. Moore is a brilliant promoter. Free advertising with an anti-government twist? It doesn't get any better," Fialho wrote in conclusion.
In the end, maybe everyone wins. Moore got lots of free publicity and the city enforces its statute while the media gets a seasonal story.

Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Bill, a resident of Pleasanton Heights,
on Dec 4, 2014 at 11:13 am

Tacky move by Moore. We won't be buying our tree there.

Posted by highdiver, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Dec 4, 2014 at 3:42 pm

I see there is a new tree vendor at the Fairgrounds. Wouldn't it be a nice Christmas gesture for Mr. Moore to allow the vendor at the Fairgrounds to display the inflatable Frosty balloon there. Hate for the balloon to mold somewhere. And, by the way, are there any other things you can legally do at the Fairgrounds that are not legal in Pleasanton?

Posted by Chuck Bierdeman, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School,
on Dec 4, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Regardless of how Mr Moore may or may not have reacted to the enforcement issue, as a city representative I think it's in very poor taste (and judgement) for City Manager Nelson Fialho to share his personal opinions. Just provide the facts.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown,
on Dec 10, 2014 at 2:09 pm

I would have no problem with this if the city enforced the code equally on everyone.

Sandwich board signs are illegal yet you cannot walk the sidewalks of downtown without tripping on at least three or four of them. Either the code enforcement department needs to enforce the rules for everyone or they should get off the tree guy.

As it is, I think the issue was resolved with them being able to keep frosty. Which is a good outcome all around.

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