City Council considers controversial sign law

In an effort to downsize the large pole signs ubiquitous with fast food restaurants, officials are recommending that the City Council stick to a years-old requirement that they’re either torn down or replaced with smaller versions to be in line with the law.

The Planning Commission made the recommendation as the City Council considers whether to stick to the plan, or give business owners some form of reprieve.

About 60 businesses throughout Glendale — from fast food restaurants to hair salons — currently can’t change what their large pole signs say unless they replace the large structures with smaller ones, which could cost thousands of dollars.

“The council could choose to change it if they want to give people a break because of what’s going on right now,” Principal Planner Wolfgang Krause said, referring to the ongoing recession.

Most of the signs — which are on West Glenoaks Boulevard, Honolulu Avenue, La Crescenta Avenue, North Pacific Avenue and Verdugo Boulevard — are too big, according to city code. Some reach as high as 25 feet with a surface area of 200 square feet, far larger than what’s allowed under city code: heights of between 6 to 8 feet and surface areas of 40 to 75 square feet.

Most of the signs have been around for 25 years, according to the city.

“It’s a rough time for them to go after businesses for signs,” said Brent Van Eps, owner of Montrose Bike Shop on Honolulu Avenue.

He doesn’t plan to change the shop’s sign face any time, citing the $12,000 price tag.

The City Council on Tuesday could give businesses a grace period to swap the signs without penalty, Krause said.

The discrepancy between what’s there and what’s allowed goes back to 1986, when the city reduced size restrictions for the pole signs. A grace period from 1986 to 2000 allowed businesses to change their sign faces even though the structures they were on were too large.

Under the current rules, if a new business moves in, it can’t remove the prior tenant’s sign face without also swapping the pole for a smaller one. Leaving a sign empty after moving also isn’t allowed.

“The idea was that if [the rules are] kept as is, these [large signs] would eventually go away,” said Planning Commissioner Stephanie Landregan.

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