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Long Beach Creates New Sign Ordinance

New code emphasizes dimension, “creative” signs



On August 13, the city council of Long Beach, CA, which, with approximately 465,000 residents, stands as California’s seventh-largest city, unanimously voted to revamp its sign code, according to Jeff Winklepleck, a planner with the city’s department of development services, said the city was long overdue to rework its approximately 40-year-old codes that oversee business signage. He noted that the proposed ordinance change was developed following consultations with city planners, sign companies, business owners and representatives from other California cities that had recently modified their codes.

“We really want to raise the bar to encourage high-quality, creative signs that aren’t just boring and flat,” he said. “We looked at other cities’ sign codes, particularly Pasadena’s, and decided that it was time to make our code easier to use for the general public, as well as setting clearer guidelines that will help our own process.”

The proposed ordinance strongly encourages owners of new businesses – existing signs will be grandfathered, and historic-district signs entail different standards – to incorporate 3-D signs instead of flat-face or cabinet signs. When cabinet signs are installed, the new code requires push-through, 3-D letters. The amount of supplemental text on flat-cabinet or can signage will be restricted.

Also, the code more tightly regulates what the ordinance terms “sign nuisances”: inflatable or air-blown signs, flag signs or projected-light signs. Their hours of operation have been reduced, and the amount of feet that an inflatable or flag sign may extend beyond a building has also been lowered. Further, the city has prohibited the installation of freestanding signs on bare-metal poles. Instead, it encourages business owners to seek design approval for handpainted signage as a low-cost alternative.

“Initially, we wanted to eliminate contact information, but businesses owners resisted,” Winklepleck said. “So, we reached a compromise that 3 sq. ft. of a sign may convey a phone number, website or Facebook page.”

However, the new code greenlights a review process for signage that incorporates rooftop elements, which had previously been prohibited. Winklepleck cited the example of Nick’s on 2nd, a restaurant in the city’s Belmont Shore neighborhood, which was granted a variance to install a rooftop sign. City officials explained the ordinance proposal to a July meeting of the 4th St. Business Assn., and Winklepeck said the proposal was “well received.” It was also endorsed at a recent Long Beach Council of Business Associations meeting.


“I saw some lights go on in people’s eyes,” he said. “If you own a business, and you put up a good sign, and your neighbor puts up a poor one, it takes away from the work you’ve done. A couple of bad signs can really start to give a building, and a neighborhood, a deteriorating appearance. When they’re done well, signs can build the character of a neighborhood, especially if they reinforce a building’s architecture.”

Superior Electrical Advertising and TDI Signs, both of Long Beach, consulted with the city on the ordinance’s development. At presstime, Winklepleck anticipated a second reading of the ordinance and approval in early September, and that the measure will be enacted in October. He said the city is developing a brochure it plans to give all new business owners about what is approved and disallowed under the new proposal.



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