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La Cañada City Council issues temporary ban on electronic message signs

La Cañada Flintridge City Hall
La Cañada Flintridge businesses seeking to install or expand electronic message signs on their properties will have to wait, after the City Council approved Tuesday an urgency ordinance placing a 45-day moratorium on any and all such signs.
(File Photo)

La Cañada Flintridge businesses seeking to install or expand electronic message signs on their properties will have to wait, after the City Council approved Tuesday an urgency ordinance placing a 45-day moratorium on any and all such signs.

The temporary ban applies to signs containing a “video screen, rows of light bulbs or LEDs or other type of electronic display,” including electronic reader boards, according to a staff report presented by Community Development Director Susan Koleda to the council during a special meeting.

Koleda explained her department is currently undergoing a major update of the city’s zoning code and will soon put the document before members of the planning commission for review. The new code will include a comprehensive update of the city’s sign regulations.

Until then, she said, a moratorium would ensure no permits were issued for new or modified electronic reader boards that would otherwise have been allowed in accordance with existing laws.

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The impetus for the urgency ordinance came after a local retailer inquired about replacing a portion of their existing sign with an electronic message sign. Koleda said staff was concerned about the negative impact illuminated signs might have on city aesthetics and safety, in terms of light pollution and driver distraction.

“We do believe that this is a current and immediate threat to the public health, safety and welfare,” she said.

Mayor Pro Tem Greg Brown said this may be a situation where the technological capabilities of signs have evolved faster than the city’s ability to regulate them.

“There are signs, some of which can be very distracting and a hazard, and others that could work very well,” he said. “I support letting us get a chance to catch up with technology.”

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Once passed by a four-fifths vote, the urgency ordinance takes effect immediately and lasts 45 days. It may be extended for up to a period of 22 months and 15 days by another four-fifths vote from the council, according to California government code.

Also Tuesday, the council:

Approved the placement of an ATM machine for Citizens Business Bank, anticipated to move into the new City Hall building this fall under a seven-year lease, in a hallway inside the bank’s rental space. Staff members had recommended placing the machine in the building’s main lobby, inside a first-floor alcove near the elevator, but council members agreed among themselves the ATM would be best placed inside the bank’s offices.

Authorized rent abatement for Citizens Business bank in the amount $80,850 to help cover the cost of HVAC improvements in the 2,672-square-foot tenant space currently under construction. The amount reflects the city’s portion of the $116,400 total cost of installation. Assistant City Manager Carl Alameda said the city did not install the complete HVAC infrastructure in the lease space when it built out City Hall, as it was unknown how many tenants would be using the area.

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