San Mateo officials say huge roof signs must go 

Estrella Benavides says God told her to paint gigantic signs on her roof, garage door and car, and inspired her through passages in the Bible.

Now, the city of San Mateo is asking her to take those same signs down, and hoping a fine of $50 a day will be enough of an inspiration to get her to follow through.

Because she did not present any evidence to support her claim that her signs are not in violation of three city ordinances, the Community Improvement Commission unanimously voted on Wednesday night to levy the fines and impose a $1,829 administrative fee for the hearing.

Neighborhood Improvement and Housing Manager Robert Muehlbauer said the city will begin fining her if the signs are not removed by Feb. 14, and will collect on the fines if the total reaches $5,000. If the signs remain — as Benavides vows they will — the city could press criminal charges or have the Department of Public Works remove them and bill her for the labor.

"The collection is not punitive, it’s an attempt to encourage compliance," Muehlbauer said. "If she brings her house into compliance with the city codes, we’re done."

Code enforcement officer Kristi Stickle said the city has been working with Benavides since August 2006, when complaints first began rolling in about her 1864 Cottage Grove Ave. home. The tan and yellow home is adorned in messages about the United States government, Cuba, rape and other abuses.

Throughout the meeting, Benavides insisted that the roof signs were her only way to speak out against "them," an unidentified group that includes federal, state and local governments and is behind a "system to rape and abuse the children of the fatherless."

Councilman John Lee was at the meeting and said he expects to see the issue appealed to the council.

E-mail Jason Goldman-Hall at

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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