Can people see Metro Pointe from the 405 Freeway?
Perhaps not well enough, according to the shopping center's developers, who won approval from the Costa Mesa Planning Commission on Monday night to install a 9-by-18-foot electronic sign near Bear Street and South Coast Drive.
The move required making an exception to the city's LED ban,
which was enacted in the wake of recent debates over whether the revamped Triangle center along Harbor Boulevard or the South Coast Collection, which also abuts the 405, should have been allowed to have electronic signage.
"We just looked at our sign program not even a year ago," said Commissioner Colin McCarthy, arguing that that the City Council decided that the LED ban should stand. His vote was one of two dissenting.
McCarthy added that he did not "want to live in a city that becomes LED Row."
But Milton Solomon of Architectural Design and Signs said his clients need the LED boost to compete with other major retail centers, such as the Market Place in Tustin and the Irvine Spectrum, which attract customers with eye-catching signage visible from the freeway.
That kind of investment, he said, will improve Metro Pointe's chances of keeping its big box tenants — the Container Store, Best Buy and Nordstrom Rack are among them — as their leases expire.
"It's top-of-the mind awareness," he said.
Commissioner Jeff Mathews said that making the exception for Metro Pointe, given that the proposed signs would not likely be visible from residential areas, could be progress for Costa Mesa.
"How cutting-edge do we want our city to be?" he asked.
Ultimately, the commission favored making the exception and approved most of the sign plan.
The panel rejected the proposed installation of 14 large "flag-style" banners that would have been hung from poles on the upper level of the parking structure, according to a staff report.
Those, Solomon said, were less critical to the design revamp.
Motel permits review delayed
At the meeting Monday evening, commissioners again opted to postpone a review of conditional use permits for two of the city's so-called problem motels.
The commission was slated to discuss the permits that have allowed the Sandpiper Motel and the Costa Mesa Motor Inn to use 40% of their rooms for long-term stays.
The two motels are among 12 in the city that officials say draw a disproportionate amount of police resources — in large part because they have become de facto low-income and transitional housing.
The commission will take up the issue next month.