LED signs OKd for Metro Pointe

The Costa Mesa City Council on Tuesday night approved new signage for Metro Pointe that includes two LED displays visible from the 405 Freeway.

But the council deviated slightly from what the city Planning Commission had approved in December. Planners agreed then to permit two 53-foot pylons, each with one light-emitting diode display to advertise Metro Pointe tenants.

The pylons will now be 40 feet high, though the dimensions of the LED displays remain 9-by-18 feet. The pylons are planned for the south side of the center, one near Best Buy and the other close to David's Bridal.

The decision Tuesday also limits the content of the displays to tenants and not events, such as movies being shown at the Edwards theater.

Mayor Jim Righeimer recommended the changes in a motion that won the support of the three other council members. Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger recused himself from the discussion, citing a financial interest with Arnel, Metro Pointe's owner.

Righeimer said he wanted the 40-foot limit so that the LEDs would be equal in height to those at the South Coast Collection center.

Metro Pointe had sought the LED displays and other new signage to keep the center competitive in the busy Orange County shopping market.

Milton Solomon of Corona-based Architectural Design & Signs said the displays would not be visible to the residents south of Metro Pointe, across the 405.

"This cannot be seen by any residents of Costa Mesa, only by the commuters on the 405," he said.

He said the signs will be tasteful and nowhere near the type of extreme lighting found in cities like Las Vegas. They will also be shut off by 10 p.m. daily and will not contain animation, which is perceived as especially distracting to drivers.

Peter Naghavi, a recently retired Costa Mesa administrator hired by Arnel to advise on the issue, called the signs "elegant and subtle."

They will be visible to 350,000 to 400,000 cars passing by Metro Pointe daily, Naghavi said, giving the city a considerable economic edge.

The LED technology is also very effective as an advertising tool, he added.

"The LED signs are, in my opinion, here to stay," Naghavi said

Two nearby residents said they were OK with the signs. Solomon said he reached out to residents to get their approval during the planning phase of the project.

Mark Harris, who lives on Tanana Place, a residential street south of Metro Pointe and across the freeway, said he could see the signs only if he stood on his roof.

"There's just a time where we have to embrace this stuff," Harris said.

Residents from elsewhere in the city expressed more skepticism, citing the recent debates over LED lighting proposals at The Triangle and SoCo Collection. In 2010, the Triangle's owners withdrew their plans amid stiff opposition from residents critical of LEDs' aesthetics and visual effects.

Resident Flo Martin called the approval a slippery slope that could lead to LED lighting all over the city.

Councilman Gary Monahan, who owns a restaurant and bar, said he would love to have LED displays at his business, if he could. The signs will not only help the big-box Metro Pointe tenants, he said, but the smaller businesses as well.

"LEDs are the signs of the future," he said. "That's what happening. That's what forward-looking businesses and developers are doing."

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