Some signs of the post-election times

CITY HALL — Election polls hadn’t even closed April 7 before complaints of left-over campaign signs reemerged according to a biennial script.

After nearly every election season, residents and officials grapple with the post-campaign visual hangover of candidate signs left on lawns, fences and vacant lots.

They may be tolerated during the election season, but after that, residents quickly come out to berate the signs as “litter” and “eyesores.”

In recent years, city code enforcement officials have largely relied on promoting a “good neighbor” policy to get property owners to voluntarily take down their signs.

A city requirement to take down campaign signs within 30 days of an election was removed several years ago after courts in other areas of the state ruled the political signs were protected under the 1st Amendment.

Code enforcement officials typically give campaigns a week to remove holdover signs before issuing a courtesy notice, and take steps to issue abatement bills to those candidates who have signs in the public right-of-way or vacant property.

“Nearly always, this nudge works,” Neighborhood Services Administrator Sam Engel said.

An official tally of sign violations won’t be ready until April 24, when the newly reorganized City Council holds its first meeting, but already, many of the sign-heavy corridors were largely devoid of the brightly colored lawn posts this past weekend.

Only a handful of campaign signs dotted mainstay political ad thoroughfares like Mountain Street and Cañada Boulevard on Saturday. And besides the large commercial billboard above Brand Boulevard for council candidate Vartan Gharpetian, downtown lots were largely gone.

Most candidates had either phoned or e-mailed supporters in the days immediately after the election to start taking down their respective signs.

Some had more work than others.

Councilman Ara Najarian, who won reelection Tuesday, said he issued only about 400 yard signs over the course of his campaign, and had e-mailed supporters to remove any stragglers.

Council candidate Aram Kazazian, whose image was posted on signs in nearly every corner of the city on either yards or mobile truck billboards, said a volunteer crew of seven had been working to remove all of the roughly 2,600 signs issued during his campaign.

Those were in addition to the 700 signs that were either stolen or vandalized, he said.

“I’ve sent out volunteers everywhere taking signs down,” he said. “All the big ones came down the next morning [after the election].”

At the City Council meeting Tuesday, even before election polls closed, the secondary issue over the seemingly growing size of political signs over the years was called into question.

City officials, wary of encroaching on free-speech rights, have held off on addressing the size of campaign signs, but the city attorney’s office is in the process of drafting a report on possibly setting a new limit for residential zones.

Currently, the size is capped at 6 square feet, which may be too small to “withstand constitutional muster,” City Atty. Scott Howard said, which is why officials have steered clear of enforcing size limits for anything under 10 square feet until the City Council reexamines the issue.

As for those property owners who choose to let signs for their candidates of choice linger, “there’s no time limit that we can enforce,” Howard said Tuesday.

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