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CALABASAS : City to Rule on Pole Sign Code Violation

The city must decide whether a service station near the freeway may keep a pole sign that does not conform to code--possibly touching off a replay of a controversy in Agoura Hills.

“This is one of the first times we’ve had a major sign issue come before us,” said Dave Brown, a member of the Calabasas Planning Commission. “This could be the beginning of a controversy over here.”

The commission will vote today whether to allow the Mobil service station on Calabasas Road to keep a 100-foot pole sign that was installed by the building’s previous occupant, an Exxon service station.

Los Angeles County approved the Exxon station’s application for the sign in 1972, but Calabasas, which incorporated in 1991, prohibits signs higher than 60 feet, said Assistant Planner Barbara Pilegard.

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Calabasas based its code on the county’s, she said, which raises questions about how Exxon was able to win approval for the sign.

City planners recommend that the station, located at 24025 Calabasas Road, be allowed to keep the sign for seven years to give the station time to comply, Pilegard said. After that the sign must be taken down.

In exchange the city is willing to allow the applicant to keep another sign that also does not conform to code, a 22-foot twin-pole, she said. That sign apparently was installed without any permits whatsoever.

“I’ve gone through the building permits, but there is no building permit for a 22-foot sign,” she said.

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Agoura Hills outlawed pole signs nine years ago, saying they spoil the view of nearby foothills. Merchants were given seven years to remove existing ones. Voters in November backed the sign ban by a 3-1 ratio.

But many business owners have balked at removing the signs, saying they need them to attract customers driving by on the freeway.

Ten businesses--Chevron, Unocal, McDonald’s, Texaco, Burger King, Denny’s, Jack-in-the-Box, Lumber City, Roadside Lumber and Fence Factory--filed separate lawsuits against the city in May, charging that the ban on the signs will hurt their profits.

In response, a community group in Agoura Hills led a boycott against the businesses. But some of the businesses declared the boycott a failure and vowed to continue their fight to keep the signs.

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