Mary A. Castillo
Business owners were rattled when they received notices from the
city that required them to apply for a sign permit and pay fees
between $30 and $185 for their existing signs.
Latitude 33 owner Tom Ahern and Ken Delano, the incoming president
of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, met with city officials to
remedy what they said could be a costly and time-consuming exercise
for local businesses.
“Some people have had signs for 10, 20 and even 40 years,” Ahern
said. “They should just be granted a sign permit as long as they’re
City Manager Ken Frank acknowledged that the original notice did
require an across-the-board application process.
After reviewing concerns, the city decided that owners with
existing signs that are in compliance with the code and who submit an
application on deadline, can receive a permit without paying a fee.
The City Council passed the sign ordinance in September. It went
into effect Oct. 18. The new ordinance places restrictions for
internal neon signs and encourages businesses to create artistic and
The city also agreed to a one-year trial run that will test
administrative or “over-the-counter” approval process.
Ahern, who headed a chamber task force that included Len
Weinstein, Cindy Obrand and Kathleen Spalione, feels that the new
ordinance levels the playing field among businesses that compete for
However, he was displeased with the way the city initially
notified local businesses about the implementation of the ordinance.
“When the city sent [the notification] out, the chamber had
provided the illustrated guide to the Laguna Beach city sign
ordinance,” he said. “Instead of sending that out with the
application, they sent a letter that lacked diplomatic tact.”
However, for George Nelson of Fawn Memories, the process was very
“Everything complied,” he said. “We only had one item that was
nonconforming, and in my case, I just took the sign down.”
Information, call Louis Kirk at (949) 497-0301 and Mariann
McNaughton at (949) 497-0322.