Is it private transportation or a stealth signboard?

Wednesday, June 2, 1999

Chris Tatem’s battle with the city of Del Mar, Calif., over where he parks his advertising-laden truck has put him in the doghouse.

Tatem said he has been fined for “conducting business on city property and having a posted advertisement.”

“Budweiser and Coke trucks are parked all over the city, sometimes even at the beach on a break. Why aren’t they ticketed?” Tatem asked. So far, Tatem has been the only one fined for this offense in Del Mar.

City code enforcement officers don’t want Tatem to park his truck at the Dog Beach because it’s covered bumper-to-bumper with advertisements for his Solana Beach Do-It-Yourself Dog Wash.

The truck is Tatem’s only source of transportation, so he doesn’t see why he is being punished. “They [city officials] have violated my First Amendment rights,” he said.

But officials say that no commercial promotions are allowed at municipal beaches without a business license and operations permit — two documents required for the use of public property.

When Tatem first began parking at the beach, his signs were small. Each time thereafter, however, “the signs grew, creating a lot of attention, generating complaints,” said Mike Emerson, the city’s code enforcement chief.

Tatem says he has received numerous citation threats from the city code enforcement officers. Lifeguards are sent out to look for him to ensure he is walking his dogs.

“They [officials at the beach] like to make sure I’m on the beach,” Tatem said. The sheriff and the parking enforcement officers are also watching him, he said.

Beach officials have also limited Tatem’s visits to a maximum of two hours per day, noting that the average person stays for two hours and thirty minutes at the most.

“I walk my dogs like anyone else. I should be treated like anyone else,” Tatem argued. “They have given me a Del Mar phobia. It’s terrible.”

Tatem is represented by Jonathan Corn, an attorney who has volunteered to take his case.

The situation appalls Corn. “If he gets another ticket, I’m going to file a lawsuit,” Corn said. “In my opinion, the city has basically singled out this one particular business owner. For a while they [city officials] have been after him. They don’t like his truck.”

Tatem has appeared in court three times to date and has paid $500 in city fines.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.