VICTORY: Future of Bernal’s Vintage Coke Sign Is Secured

Vintage Coke Sign

It took a year, an outcry, and a special piece of legislation to get the job done, but last Thursday the matter of Anonymous NIMBY vs. Bernal’s Vintage Coca-Cola Sign has been resolved, and the future of the sign is now secured.

Richard Modolo, the Bernal resident who owns the home at 601 Tompkins upon which the sign appears, sent Bernalwood this summary of last week’s Planning Commission meeting where the commissioners voted to allow the sign to remain:

I attended the Planning Commission meeting this afternoon and the Conditional Use Permit has has been approved. Next the Conditional Use permit will be recorded with the property deed, once that is completed I believe  the final step in the process is pulling a sign permit. We are getting near the finish line. I might add that there were several Bernal Hill residents who showed up in support of the sign. I am thankful to them and you for all of the support. I will continue to keep you informed along the way.

The vote came as a great relief, but in some ways it was not a surprise. Indeed, the Executive Summary of the case written by Planning Commision staff advocated for the preservation of the sign, and for all the right reasons:

The news of the Planning Commision vote was picked up by many of our City’s mainstream media outlets, including The Examiner and The Chronicle. Here’s an excerpt from the Chron’s coverage:

The vintage Coca-Cola sign whose presence bubbled into a citywide debate about preservation and historic art can stay right where it is, the Planning Commission decided Thursday.

A year ago, the 15-by-7-foot sign on the wall of a Bernal Heights home became the subject of controversy when a group of residents said it was corporate advertising in a residential area and promoted obesity by advertising a sugary drink.

Those for the mural, which was probably first painted in 1930, before being covered with asbestos siding in 1956 and rediscovered in 1991, said it was a relic from Bernal Heights’ working-class past.

All well and good, but both the Chron and the Ex made a factual error by asserting that there was some balance of opinion within Bernal Heights regarding the fate of the sign. That is false. There was no “group of neighbors” that opposed the sign; As far as we know, there was exactly ONE neighbor who opposed it, and that lone neighbor managed to set in motion the chain of events that backfired very completely, such that the sign can now remain in place in perpetuity with the official imprimatur of Our City’s Government. (Also, the sign dates from the early 1940s, not the 1930, but who’s counting?)

But, hey, whatever. Victory is still victory, and still sweet, no matter how absurd the entire controversy might have been. So now let us just quietly enjoy the knowledge that Bernal’s vintage Coke sign can grace the neighborhood for 70 more trouble-free years.

PHOTO: Top, Richard Modolo. Below, Telstar Logistics

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12 thoughts on “VICTORY: Future of Bernal’s Vintage Coke Sign Is Secured

  1. I was going to comment on the “when a group of residents said it was corporate advertising…” line, but I see you beat me to it. I think that’s a useful fact to remember when reading accounts of events where you don’t know that facts. Just because it’s printed by a news organization does not mean it’s correct.

  2. a sad day indeed when laws need to be passed to “save” a piece of capitalistic commercialism. so close to public school, I hope the children don’t get the wrong idea and actually drink that terrible sweet zero nutritional value junk. sad we should glamorize it by saving a silly sign.

  3. And some people, somewhere, might spend money! Or sell something! Or buy something! And it might be something I disapprove of! How can this be allowed!

  4. Oh, by all means, let’s recapitulate all the arguments, shall we?

    Con:
    – It is an advertisement for a product from a corporation
    – It is close to a school, so it will influence kids to consume something bad for them
    – There are limits to what signs should be allowed in our city

    Pro:
    – The property owner has rights to display what they want
    – It is art, or at least, artistic
    – It is old, and therefore valued for being a remnant of the past

    Feh. I live around the corner, and I love the sign. I also love the product. I also have kids, who have seen the sign already (and more importantly, see that I sometimes drink a can of Coke). My kids won’t get to drink Coke for a few more years (when they can get stuff on their own), and I’m pretty sure my consumption of a Coke once in a while does more to influence that than any sign!

  5. Be glad we live in a country where this ridiculous comlaint was listened to and acted on. Good Lord people, get a grip. There are children dying out there and we dispose of more food in a day then they see in a month
    There seems to alwlays be someone out there that has to stick there nose in everyone’s business Kitty.

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