This post has been corrected. See note at bottom for details.
Costa Mesa will allow a major shopping center to build a pair of giant LED signs on 40-foot pylons that would be visible from the 405 Freeway, despite fears from some it could lead to other bright displays elsewhere in the city.
The new signage for Metro Pointe approved by the Costa Mesa City Council on Tuesday will be shorter than the 53-foot pylons that had received permits from city planners, the Daily Pilot reported. That decision, though, was appealed by a council member concerned the signs could pave the way for more light-emitting diode displays in the city.
Though the pylons will now be 40 feet high, the dimensions of the LED displays will remain 9-by-18 feet. They are planned for the south side of the center, one near Best Buy and the other close to David's Bridal.
The decision Tuesday also limits the content of the displays to tenants, excluding events.
Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer recommended the changes in a motion that won the support of the three other council members. Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger recused himself from the discussion, citing a financial interest with Arnel, Metro Pointe's owner.
Righeimer said he wanted the 40-foot limit so the LEDs would be equal in height to those at the South Coast Collection center.
Metro Pointe had sought the LED displays and other new signage to keep the center competitive in the busy Orange County shopping market.
Milton Solomon of Corona-based Architectural Design & Signs said the displays would not be visible to the residents south of Metro Pointe, across the 405.
"This cannot be seen by any residents of Costa Mesa, only by the commuters on the 405," he said.
He said the signs will be tasteful and nowhere near the type of extreme lighting found in cities such as Las Vegas. They will also be shut off by 10 p.m. daily and will not contain animation, which is perceived as especially distracting to drivers.
Peter Naghavi, a recently retired Costa Mesa administrator hired by Arnel to advise on the issue, called the signs "elegant and subtle."
They will be visible to 350,000 to 400,000 cars passing by Metro Pointe daily, Naghavi said, giving the city a considerable economic edge.
The LED technology is also very effective as an advertising tool, he added.
"The LED signs are, in my opinion, here to stay," Naghavi said
Two nearby residents said they were OK with the signs. Solomon said he reached out to residents to get their approval during the planning phase of the project.
Mark Harris, who lives on Tanana Place, a residential street south of Metro Pointe and across the freeway, said he could see the signs only if he stood on his roof.
"There's just a time where we have to embrace this stuff," Harris said.
However, residents from elsewhere in the city expressed more skepticism, citing the recent debates over LED lighting proposals at The Triangle and SoCo Collection. In 2010, the Triangle's owners withdrew their LED plans amid stiff opposition from residents critical of aesthetics and visual effects.
Resident Flo Martin called the approval a slippery slope that could lead to LED lighting all over the city.
Councilman Gary Monahan, who owns a restaurant and bar, said he would love to have LED displays at his business, if he could. The signs will not only help the big-box Metro Pointe tenants, he said, but the smaller businesses as well.
"LEDs are the signs of the future," he said. "That's what's happening. That's what forward-looking businesses and developers are doing."
[For the Record 1/8/2014, 6:25 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the LED displays would be atop the 40-foot pylons. The signs will be attached to the pylons.]