Signs of the times: City’s dispute is common throughout California
August 23, 2005
An 11-year-old South Lake Tahoe sign ordinance spawned by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and adopted by the city is not alone in discussion and debate.
As it turns out, many California cities from Milpitas to Salinas either prohibit or restrict the use of temporary signs such as banners and sandwich boards.
“If you run across a city that doesn’t have problems, let me know,” Truckee Town Manager Tony Lashbrook said Tuesday. He’s worked in local government for 25 years.
Unlike this city’s outright ban, Truckee restricts the use of the temporary signs for a maximum duration of 90 days a year to allow merchants to run sales. But beforehand, business owners need to show a rendering of the proposed sign.
Lashbrook said the code enacted in 1993 has been embroiled in a controversy over its fairness. Whenever the town government has backed off with flexibility over what’s allowed, he said “the signs get out of control.”
Teri Jamin, South Lake Tahoe’s community development director, told planning commissioners debating the topic Tuesday that restrictions on temporary signs are common in resort communities.
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Other similarities include the geographic layout of a city, as in the case of Crescent City. The northern California city is split by Highway 101, a major thoroughfare through town that motorists use to zip through town on their way up the North Coast. Some merchants clamor to get their name and promotion on it.
“Everybody has a sale. But pretty soon, you lose the forest for the trees,” city planner Will Caplinger said.
He estimated at least a quarter of the businesses with signs are non-compliant in some way or another.
The city allows the use of the temporary signs up to 15 days in a year. A business may use one banner, but it must be fixed to the building. The city ordinance has been in place for 40 years and amended in 2001, but the issue seems never ending at times, Caplinger stressed. Sometimes the boulevard is covered with signs, and some merchants claim the city selectively enforces it. One merchant who opened a shop a few weeks ago has appealed the ordinance. There’s talk of it going before the planning commission, which is what occurred in South Lake Tahoe on Tuesday.
A sampling of cities that either ban or regulate temporary signs:
— Angels Camp
— Monterey Park
— Scotts Valley