When he suggested his fellow City Council members direct the Planning Commission to rewrite part of a city ordinance to allow freeway-facing signs, Mike Healy assumed the task would be completed.

But the commission, filled with members of a different political bent, returned a 6-0 recommendation to leave the ordinance unchanged.

Today, the council will examine the commission's recommendation and make its own determination. Although Healy's motion passed 3-2, its passage isn't guaranteed this time.

In May, the council heard an appeal from the developers of the Target center, which at 34 acres and 378,000 square feet of retail space, makes East Washington Place the city's largest shopping complex.

Regency Centers wants to place signs on the rear of the buildings, which face Highway 101. It says the tenants, including Dick's Sporting Goods, TJ Maxx Home Goods and Sprouts market, demand them.

Petaluma's existing sign ordinance prohibits signs oriented toward the freeway, although there are numerous exceptions. Regency appealed the Planning Commission's rejection and the council heard the issue in May.

Then, Healy was joined by Chris Albertson and Mike Harris in directing the Planning Commission to revisit the ordinance to allow discretion for "tasteful" freeway-facing signs. Council members Teresa Barrett and Tiffany Renee opposed it.

Mayor David Glass couldn't vote because he owns significant stock in Target, and Gabe Kearney was absent.

But Kearney voted against changing the ordinance in his position as liaison with the planning board.

That could lead to a 3-3 tie today, unless Kearney changes his vote. He has said he would prefer to revisit the entire sign ordinance at one time rather than changing just a portion of it.

Changes would affect three other shopping centers along 101: Plaza North (Raley's), Plaza South (Kmart) and Deer Creek Village (Friedman's).

Healy said changing the ordinance to allow freeway-facing signs would give the city the opportunity to improve the rear sides of the Plaza buildings, which were built when there were trees camouflaging their dull backsides. The trees have been removed for Highway 101 widening.

"What we have now is essentially a blanket prohibition with these wacky exceptions that seem to swallow the rule," he said.

Also today, the council is expected to outsource the city's animal shelter to a nonprofit group run by current shelter workers and volunteers.

The move would allow the city to eliminate eight jobs from its payroll along with salary and pension costs.

Shelter workers and volunteers suggested the move when it appeared one of two animal control officers would be laid off to save money within the Police Department. All existing workers would remain employed with the nonprofit group, with smaller pay and retirement benefits.

The city wouldn't save money with the contract, but it allows the shelter to continue offering the same level of staffing and services, and provides potential improvements through private grant funding that was unavailable to a city agency.

The council meets at 6:30 p.m. Monday at 11 English St.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.