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Attempt to remove J.C. Penney sign in San Fernando sparks uproar

July 30, 2012 | 11:32 am

JC Penney San Fernando
Some San Fernando residents are upset with J.C. Penney about a late-night attempt to remove signage from the facade of a now-closed department store.

The store in the 1100 block of San Fernando Road closed down during the weekend amid protests from city residents. It was the city's only department store.

San Fernando resident Julian Ruelas, 32, raced from his house when he received a call Sunday night about the sign being taken down. He had been organizing rallies to save the store. Ruelas arrived around 11 p.m. to see a man with a blowtorch preparing to take the store's neon sign down.

"It's the anchor of our downtown. It's the only functional department store that we have," Ruelas said.

Community activists had previously nominated the building as a historical landmark. A hearing will be held by the city's planning and historical preservation commission Aug. 20, activists said.

The group had notified J.C. Penny and the landlord that no part of the building or sign was to be altered until the hearing.

San Fernando Mayor Pro Tem Antonio Lopez received a call about the sign about 10:30 p.m. When he arrived, he informed the man that he needed a permit to take the sign down and was endangering public safety by illegally blocking the sidewalk.

"He came in with the name of [his] company covered with a rag. He covered his license plates," Lopez said. "So it was very sneaky of them."

A couple of hours later, the sign was put back up.

"Unfortunately, they didn't completely put it up correctly," said Lopez, who noted a couple screws were missing.

Sunday's incident is the latest controversy to hit the small town. This summer, the City Council fired Police Chief Gil Carrillo, and three council members have been accused of involvement in two separate sex scandals and are subject to recall.

J.C. Penny could not be immediately reached for comment.

"They don't care about small towns," Ruelas said. "But the funny thing about this is we still want them here."


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Photo: A motorist is directed to a parking space for a rally July 1 to protest the closing of the J.C. Penney store in San Fernando. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times