Signs fastened to Santa Ana's historic Santora building by building owner Michael Harrah. (Photo by: Adam Elmahrek)

The city of Santa Ana has fined Santora building owner Michael Harrah for a pair of plastic box-frame signs fastened to the historic building’s facade that advertise his Original Mike’s restaurant two blocks over and have angered the building’s tenants.

Harrah was warned by the city last month; then last week the city issued a $100 fine. If the signs remain up, Harrah can be cited “each day beyond the correction date” and fined up to $500, according to the citation document.

Specifically, the citation says the signs were not permitted. They also violate a provision in the sign code that bans “cabinet signs.” The citation says Harrah needs to “remove cabinet sign or contact planning to legalize.”

The signs have become a flashpoint among some Santora tenants — who are primarily artists — and others who populate Santa Ana’s Artists Village. Not only are the artists angry over the fact that the signs direct people away from the building’s galleries and eateries, but say they are an affront to the building’s 1920s Spanish mission design.

Harrah, when contacted more than a month ago, was defiant regarding the signs. He said, in so many words, that it is his building and he can do what he wants with it. He has not returned calls for comment since.

However, Cynthia Nelson, who heads city’s Community Development Department said that the preservation group Heritage Orange County owns the easement on the exterior of the building and therefore has the right to remove the signs if Harrah doesn’t.

Philip Chinn, president of Heritage Orange County, has previously chosen not to confront Harrah on the sign issue. He could not be reached for comment on this story.


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