Long-awaited Sprouts Farmers Market meets signage glitch

The long-awaited Sprouts Farmers Market, which will be bringing natural foods to La Cañada Flintridge in the space formerly occupied by Sport Chalet’s Sportland building, encountered an unexpected problem Tuesday night with signage that can be installed on the building.

City staff recommended at a Planning Commission meeting that the commission exempt the project from the signage limitations called for by city code. Noble Signs, the signage company hired by Sprouts, asked for six signs, with the main sign’s letters measuring six feet tall, and for some of the signs to be illuminated LEDS.

Instead, the commissioners voted unanimously to approve signage only if it is reduced from six signs to four, with the main sign’s letters to be four feet tall, and the signs to be back-lit, or “halo- lit,” instead of wholly illuminated.

City planner Chris Gjolme gave a report to the commission citing previously approved signage on businesses such as Vons and Sport Chalet as a precedent for approving Sprouts’ plan.

“The current sign ordinance was really designed to address commercial spaces along the boulevard with small tenants,” said Gjolme. “The architecture and the scale of those buildings dictate that certain excesses be allowed.”

But Commissioner Michael Cahill said that the commission’s preference for fewer, smaller signs is a matter of trying to move La Cañada toward an overall better aesthetic, and so that even though there are existing businesses in the area with large or illuminated signs, he couldn’t approve the requested signage.

“La Cañada is trying to upgrade its community and trying to become a nicer community,” said Cahill. “So we don’t want to look at those from a bygone area as some sort of example.”

“I think there’s a lot of request for signage here that is unnecessary,” said Cahill. “I don’t see why this store needs excess signs to basically do advertising on the street.”

Another concern for commissioners was how bright an LED sign would be, said commissioner Herand Sarkissian.

“I thought the signs were huge, and I think the volume of light … is going to be very significant,” said Sarkissian.

Cahill suggested that Sprouts follow in the footsteps of Whole Foods in Pasadena, which uses a soft rear-lighting technique known as halo lighting on its sign.

Deborah Leone, Noble Signs’ representative at the hearing, said that the changes being requested by the commission are unreasonable.

“I do Whole Foods [signs],” said Leone told the commission. “The majority have gone to LEDs like we’re proposing.”

Leone said after the meeting that Noble Signs was in talks with Sprouts leadership to determine their next course of action, which may or may not include appealing the commission’s decision to the City Council.

Leone said she was surprised at how the meeting went, since the signage plan wasn’t scheduled for review by the Design Commission until Oct. 20.

“We were only there to determine size and content,” said Leone. “They overstepped their boundaries.”

Planning Commissioner Jonathan Curtis said at the meeting that while the signage issue had to be addressed, the commission wants the store to move forward.

“I could be totally fine on the illumination, I just need to be better educated,” said Curtis. “Everybody is dying for this store to open.”

Copyright © 2019, La Cañada Valley Sun
EDITION: California | U.S. & World