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Giant Suisun billboard has 50-year history

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From page A1 | December 29, 2013 | 1 Comment

What is That?

The 68-foot, triangular-shaped sign at the intersection of Highway 12 and Marina Drive in Suisun City is, oddly enough, a sort of landmark for the city. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

Editor’s note: This is part of a periodic series telling the story behind various sights in Solano County.

SUISUN CITY — They tower 68 feet over Highway 12 at Marina Drive, these three panels informing motorists about Miller Light beer and the local La Cabaña restaurant and Hampton Inn and Suites.

The panels are part of a billboard unlike any other in Solano County. Both the height and triangular shape are singular, resulting in what looks like a giant cookie cutter held up by three poles.

For almost 50 years, this sign in various incarnations has been a kind of Suisun City landmark.

Suisun City Councilwoman Jane Day is glad it’s there, given the difficulties these days in getting such signs built along state highways. She hopes that someday, somehow, the sign can be to used to promote, not commercial undertakings, but Suisun City.

“I think it’s a great thing it’s been grandfathered in,” Day said. “I wouldn’t ask for it to come down. I think I would find some avenue to use it for the city.”

Though she does see one drawback to this strange billboard.

“I wish it was lower, so people would actually pay attention to it,” she said.

The sign went up in the mid-1960s. Its panels originally read “Suisun Pacific,” the name of a big custom-home-and-marina project planned for the city. Those words can still be seen on the back panel that faces away from Highway 12. Only two panels are used for advertising, with the Hampton Inn and Suites and La Cabaña sharing a panel.

Suisun Pacific was to include a marina located at Whispering Bay at the southern end of Marina Boulevard. This marina was to have 400 berths, lagoon-view homes, a gas station, a snack bar, a boat shop and dry storage.

A 1964 advertisement called Suisun Pacific “Northern California’s only complete marina community.” It included a painting of what the developers envisioned: luxury homes along Marina Circle and berths filling Whispering Bay.

On July 8, 1964, the city gave the developers permission to install the sign. Presumably, it went up in subsequent months.

But it wasn’t unique in Northern California. It apparently had a twin in San Jose that had gone up in the 1950s and said “Tropicana” instead of “Suisun Pacific.”

An uncompleted marina opened in October 1964. Festivities included a skiing exhibition and an outdoor boat show. Homes went up.

The Suisun Pacific project petered out in subsequent years and the marina closed. For years, the sign remained on a vacant lot with “Suisun Pacific” emblazoned on its triangular panels. Suisun City officials by the late 1980s said the cost of removing the sign would be prohibitive.

Then-Suisun City Councilman Randall Carlson in 1988 speculated that perhaps the deteriorating landmark could be fixed up to say “Suisun City.”

Instead, it got fixed up in 1995 to pitch beer. Suisun City had fought the private owners in court to stop them from leasing out panels on the old sign for advertising. The city lost.

Even in 1995, Day expressed hope that the sign could be used to promote Suisun City, either as a sign or clock tower.

That remains only a dream. For now, the Suisun City landmark is what may well be Solano County’s tallest billboard.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or beberling@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.
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Discussion | 1 comment

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  • MarinaDecember 29, 2013 - 7:53 am

    As someone who lives at the corner of Whispering Bay Lane and Marina Circle, I can say that there's no way they're building anything else here unless they remove a lot of soil, and then backfill with bedrock, as our homes are sinking into this clay soil that was brought here from who knows where. I suspect that this is one of the reasons why the project fizzled out.

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