LAGUNA BEACH : Real-Estate Sign Limits Opposed

A plan that would have restricted home sellers to only one sign to direct potential buyers to an open house appears to have crumbled after a lively crowd of about 40 realtors turned out to protest the ordinance at the City Council meeting Tuesday.

The restriction, which would have permitted one for-sale sign on properties up for sale and a single open-house directional sign elsewhere, was endorsed by the Laguna Beach Beautification Council and recommended for approval by city staff.

The realtors--including Councilwoman Martha Collison, who is also a real estate agent--said such a law would make it virtually impossible for motorists to find their way to homes for sale in the city.

"It would be extremely difficult for a potential buyer to find a home in the Laguna community if we were limited to one open-house sign per property," said Harry Bithell, president of the Laguna Board of Realtors.

The attempt to curb real estate signs was just one provision in a larger sign ordinance under consideration by the council, but it was the only part that elicited comment from the audience.

The council voted unanimously to tentatively approve the ordinance with the understanding that a committee, including realtors, will be formed to make another recommendation on use of real-estate signs. While it is unclear what form that recommendation will take, realtors seemed satisfied Wednesday morning with the council's action.

"I think, based upon what was stated and discussed last night, we can work out a reasonable solution," Bithell said.

Following a string of realtors to the podium, Beautification Council member Joy Dickerson said at Tuesday's meeting that she realized a Pandora's box might be unsealed by attempting to restrict the signs. "It looks like the box got opened," she said.

But Dickerson maintained that fewer open-house signs, coupled with the use of generic black and white for-sale signs, would benefit the community aesthetically.

"What we're really trying to do is add a little class to it," she said.

Council members offered varying opinions about restricting the signs.

"Frankly, no citizen in this community has ever called me to complain about real-estate signs," Councilwoman Lida Lenney said. Mayor Neil G. Fitzpatrick and Councilman Robert F. Gentry, however, said some controls are warranted.

"There is a proliferation and it looks junky at times," Fitzpatrick said.

A final vote on the sign ordinance is set for Nov. 5.

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