TOP STORY:Council prohibits electric signs

CITY HALL ? The City Council narrowly passed a resolution Tuesday prohibiting electronic signs, which their detractors say distract drivers and diminish Burbank's aesthetic appeal.

Councilmen Jef Vander Borght and David Gordon voted against the resolution, arguing that the ban should not be imposed on signs that display time and temperature. But the council's vote will require businesses, going forward, to file for a variance in order to install these types of displays on their properties, Assistant Planner Tracey Steinkruger said. Existing signs will not be affected, she added.

Though time and temperature signs may provide the public with valuable information, the signs are primarily intended to draw attention to a business, Councilman Dave Golonski argued.

"I understand the desire to permit [time and temperature signs], but I believe that there is a relatively simple process that exists in the ordinance that we're looking at, which is that someone could ask for a sign variance," he said. "I don't think that that's an unreasonable request for someone if they choose to have one of those."

Requiring variances will allow the city to monitor the number of electronic signs and what they look like, Councilwoman Marsha Ramos said.

"I actually don't have a problem with the time and temperature signs that we've seen in the past, however, I do think you need to be careful that they're not everywhere or down the street in four different places," she said. "I just think the variance process allows the careful management of the aesthetics of a particular boulevard."

But a cumbersome and expensive variance application process imposes an "outrageous" burden on business owners, Gordon said.

"I was prepared to vote for the new regulations," he said. "However, I could not support imposing a variance requirement for the non-distracting, informational electronic time and temperature signs. Requiring a variance in this case is simply too restrictive, cost-prohibitive, and would adversely impact smaller-scale businesses that might otherwise wish to utilize this type of non-intrusive signage."

The cost to apply for a sign variance is $1,650, City Planner Michael Forbes said.

Although sign-variance applicants must confront the same procedure required for all other types of code exceptions, city staffers largely consider sign variances a much "easier" process, Forbes said.

The new law prohibits any new electric signage from being installed, Steinkruger said, but existing signs ? such as the displays at IKEA and Napa Express Lube ? may remain in place as long as they are operated in compliance with the original city code, which allows sign-owners to switch a sign display only once every 24 hours, Steinkruger said. Burbank Unified School District signs are also not subject to the restriction.

The ban springs from the council's concerns that flashing lights or constantly streaming text can be an eyesore and poses a distraction to drivers on the roadway, Steinkruger said.

The ban takes effect in 30 days.

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