Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy
New rules for old signs

By Chad Garland,

As familiar old signs disappear from building facades around Burbank, such as the Alta Dena Dairy and Valley Rubber Stamp Co., both on Magnolia Boulevard, a proposed ordinance is moving forward with the goal of helping preserve historic signs in the city.

The Burbank Planning Board unanimously supported a resolution on Monday recommending that the City Council approve the proposed ordinance, which would allow members of the public and sign owners to request that a sign be designated as a historic property — if requested by a member of the public, the sign owner must agree to the designation.

Such a designation would allow sign owners to preserve the signs, including those that do not conform to modern code requirements, and provide a clear process for appropriately modifying such signs to meet their current business needs, according to the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance also includes provisions that allow for relocation of an existing historic sign if it cannot be maintained at its current location and the use of replicas of historic signs in locations where they once stood, provided they are consistent with the documented appearance of a sign from a significant period of Burbank history and meet other conditions.

Board member Douglas Drake praised the ordinance as addressing all the possible scenarios for historic-sign preservation he could imagine.

“It was very thorough, very comprehensive,” Drake said.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Click on each marker for a picture and information about each sign.

  • small green  Tier 1: Pre-1969 signs, largely unaltered and intact
  • small yellow  Tier 2: Pre-1969 signs that have been altered

City staff began drafting the proposed ordinance last year after hearing from residents who said they value the old signs. The city also hired an architectural consultant who cataloged nearly 80 potentially historic signs that date to before 1969 throughout the city’s commercial districts.

Amanda Landry, an associate planner for the city, had sought Planning Board and City Council guidance last fall in crafting incentives that would encourage businesses to preserve their signs and allow property owners to repair historic signs that do not fit modern code requirements.

The proposed ordinance includes incentives such as waiving building-permit fees for preservation work on the signs, reducing building fees by 10% (up to $5,000 per year) for a property with a designated historic sign, increasing allowed signage by 10% on such properties and discounting a historic sign’s square footage from the property’s maximum allowed signage limits.

The Smoke House, 4420 Lakeside Drive, which has signs dating to the late 1940s, is refurbishing its sign in the parking lot, said Israel Aviles, the restaurant’s general manager, adding that it should be back to its former glory later this month.

But even as the ordinance works its way forward, it’s too late to save some of the other signs identified as having historic value.

Board member Christopher Rizzotti noted Monday that the Valley Rubber Stamp Co., 1208 W. Magnolia Blvd., had removed its sign, which dates back to 1946, according to the historic sign study.

However, Carol Barrett, assistant community development director, told the board that Landry was able to save the 1960s-era sign formerly at Alta Dena Dairy, 4420 W. Magnolia Blvd.

The sign is now at the San Fernando Valley Relics Museum in Chatsworth, she said.

“It’s being cared for,” Barrett said. “She persuaded the owner not to demolish it, but to allow for its proper removal, and she did all of that on her own initiative.”