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In-N-Out Burger Sign Looms Large Over San Carlos Neighborhood

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SAN CARLOS (CBS SF) – Call it a sign of the times.

Despite the success of a new business in a weak economy, people in one city are not happy with their popular new neighbor. Residents of San Carlos are upset over the burger behemoth In-N-Out that recently made a new home in their community.

CBS 5’s Kiet Do reports that neighbors are angered by the restaurant’s brightly lit sign that was hoisted in front of the business, and in plain view from many of their yards.

As if the Bay Area housing market wasn’t bad enough, homeowners in San Carlos said this is the last thing they need.

“I mean, that is one giant sign when you’re back here,” said Dan Toms, who laughs in disbelief as he takes a gander at the sign that stands six-and-a-half stories tall from his backyard. You can also see the sign from his front yard.

The new restaurant was built in June, and residents knew that there would surely be a large sign to identify it…but they had no idea it would stand 65-feet tall, and visible from more than a half-mile away.

Toms said he believes the value of his $500,000 house has gone down at least 10 percent because of the structure.

“Let’s say I try to sell my house, the first thing you’re going to do is go right for that, no matter what I do to my house,” he said. “You’re going to see that, so it’s just intrusive.”

Neighborhood association president Ben Fuller said it’s even worse at nighttime. The sign lights up Fairfield and Springfield Drives. Fuller said In-N-Out is violating it’s Use Permit, in which the last line states, “The illumination from the signs shall not spill over onto adjacent properties.”

“It’s a blatant invasion into your home to have that light literally shining through your curtains. One of the families mentioned that every day is like the Fourth of July,” he said.

In-N-Out said it is trying to be a good neighbor. The San Carlos location is the first in the country to have air scrubbers installed to control the smell of fried food.

And when neighbors said the speakers were too loud, they stopped using them.

The company said the city of San Carlos approved their plans with virtually no complaints. They told CBS 5 they’ll listen, but any changes now are completely up to In-N-Out.

“It would be exceedingly difficult and not likely that we would be able to lower that sign and still make our business work there,” said Carl Van Fleet, In-N-Out Vice President of Planning and Development.

Fuller said the association is not anti-business and that he enjoys eating at In-N-Out. He said the company has always acted in good faith, and that he has one last request:

“If they put some trees in, if they were to put some sort of screen up to cover the sign so it’s not so visible from our neighborhood, and if they were to lower the luminocity, all those things would really make us happy,” he said.

Another issue is the deliveries that the restaurant gets at 4 in the morning. Residents are hoping to get some relief from that as well.

As for the lit In-N-Out sign, that turns off daily at 1 a.m.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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