Mary A. Castillo
The City Council unanimously approved to amend the municipal code
that governs sign regulations, ending a process that began in 2001.
Among the key elements of the amendment that will go into effect
after Oct. 18 are the restrictions for internal neon signs and the
encouragement of businesses to create artistic and representation
signs. The city also agreed to a one-year trial run that will test an
administrative or “over-the-counter” approval process.
Internal neon signs must be placed 4 feet or more back from the
window and must not be any larger than 3 square feet.
Councilwoman Toni Iseman expressed reservations about allowing
these signs and asked if city staff would prohibit business owners
from magnifying the luminescence of their neon signs with the
strategic placement of mirrors.
“When you drive through Corona del Mar and get to Laguna Beach
you’re happy to get here because of the lack of bright lights,” she
The amended ordinance included a table of sign luminance standards
that limit the amount of light spillage onto the public right of way
or adjacent properties. Also, all signs can only be illuminated from
the top down.
Tom Ahern, who joined a chamber task force that included Len
Weinstein, Cindy Obrand and Kathleen Spalione, said he strove to
write an ordinance that would not only have teeth in its enforcement
but also streamline the approval process. The committee worked with
the Planning Commission to create a separate enforcement ordinance
that included the call to hire city officials who would enforce
The approval process was one of the most pressing issues for the
“All signs would have to go through Design Review for approval,”
Ahern said. “Their dockets are clogged but as long as the sign is
within the parameters, they should be administratively approved by
During the year-long trial run, staff have at their disposal a
guidebook that outlines size, luminescence and provides examples of
acceptable business signs.
Ahern defended the amendment’s call for artistically or
“Signs must convey what [a retailer] sells and create an instant
recognition to the customer,” he said. “That is very important to us
At last week’s meeting, Mayor Wayne Baglin brought up the question
of enforcing parking signs illegally placed outside residences.
“It denies the free use of the right of way for the public and
should be prohibited,” he said.
Ken Frank replied that there are thousands of such signs in the
city. Staff will return a recommendation regarding “tenant only”
parking signs to the council at a future date.