All over Southern California, schools have installed electronic signboards where their stale old signs used to be.
You know the kind of old sign — the school name and mascot on top, with the message case beneath announcing back to school night or the big game, often with an upside-down “7”or “M” standing in for an “L” or “W” that has gone missing.
The newfangled signs, such as the one at La Cañada High School, allow schools to highlight more than one event or safety precaution at any given time.
St. Francis High School wants to put one in on Foothill Boulevard, and this has caused more than the expected sturm and drang at City Hall.
The city's design commission determined the proposed sign would not fit into the city's strict sign ordinances. Some City Council members expressed concern about the advent of electronic signs as visual pollution inconsistent with community standards.
Fortunately, there likely is a path to redrafting the law to allow St. Francis and perhaps the other schools on Foothill to install the signs without calling to mind the Las Vegas Strip.
St. Francis is a nonprofit learning institution, not a commercial enterprise, and can be distinguished from other potential applicants on that basis. The city can set limits on the size and height of the signs, effectively diminishing the distraction they create for passing motorists or nearby property owners.
Schools, public and private, are centers for activity for thousands of La Cañadans: students and faculty, obviously, but also alums, future students, civic groups and the community at large. It is understandable and beneficial that schools would want to keep their calendar of events in the public eye.
Commercial messages and promotions should stay off the boards, but an electronic sign on campus is not the coming of doom. It is a sign of the times.